Support Agriculture By Supporting New Growers [Opinion]

A few months ago I wrote about the Young Farmer Success Act, as well as in the GenNext Growers feature that month. It’s a topic we at the magazine feel is an important issue facing the next generation of growers. Comments on my stories indicated many of you felt differently.

This Young Farmer Success Act has been getting a lot of media attention as of late. In fact, executives from Clif Bar endorsed a letter created by the American Sustainable Business Council, which urges Congress to move the bill forward.

“Agriculture has become such a technical venture that you really need to have that college degree” Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, told MarketWatch. Young says software programs, chemicals, and other farm tasks have become so technology-focused, education is imperative. If a young grower entering the workforce doesn’t have some education in accounting, business, or technology, they’re left in the dust.

The cost of college is astounding. It’s not what it was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, or even less. Today, 71% graduates leave college with a bachelor’s degree and an average student loan debt of $29,400, according to figures from the White House. Figures from the Wall Street Journal show a 10-fold increase in student loan indebtedness since the early 1990s, clocking in at less than $10,000 in 1993.

Young people see agriculture as too risky a startup-venture to enter into with a substantial student aid burden. They don’t have the capital to secure loans to start farming.

According to data from USDA’s Census of Agriculture, only 6% of the 2.1 million farmers in the U.S. are under the age of 35. In 1992, that figure was 16%. And between 2007 and 2012, only 1,220 new young farmers joined the agriculture workforce. And with the average net cash income per farm of $43,750, that doesn’t leave much room to pay off any student loans a new farmer may have accrued.

Student loan debt is a serious financial burden nationwide, with serious implications for the future. It could limit future generations’ interest in taking over your business when the time comes. Data from the Census of

Agriculture shows within the next five years, 91.5 million acres of farmland is expected to change hands.

“The USDA says that we need to inspire 100,000 new farmers over the next decade or we are going to get more consolidation and more imports from overseas,” Rep. Chris Gibson told CivilEats. “If you want to be a thriving country, you have to grow and produce locally. We’re not nearly keeping up.”

And this is the bright spot for young growers, because of that 6% of new farmers, 22% of their sales comes from direct-to-market and 26% from organic. These numbers are going to continue to grow as local produce is a big focus of the next generation of consumers.

The Young Farmer Success Act isn’t a handout. It’s a repayment plan, where those entering the agriculture industry are making income-based repayments consistently for 10 years, prior to qualifying for debt forgiveness. That means they have to make a 10-year commitment to agriculture before benefiting from such a program. If in 10 years, a grower has outstanding student debt, it’s forgiven.

This act may not have a lot to do with you, on the surface, but if you want agriculture to have a seat at the table in the future, we need dedicated young people willing to give a agriculture a chance. And they need all of our support.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

GenNext Growers Stories
overflowing beaker in science lab
GenNext Growers
September 4, 2017
New Collaboration Hopes to Boost Youth Interest in Science
Bayer, 4-H partner to increase interest in science among young people nationwide and cultivate the next generation of innovators shaping agriculture, food, and health. Read More
haskap berries
GenNext Growers
August 22, 2017
Top Alternative Crops GenNext Growers Should Consider
Now is a good time for you to think about what new selections might pay off. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 17, 2017
Young Growers See Evolving Orchard Production on Cornell Tour
A group of 30 got a chance to see operations boasting vertical integration and higher production per acre up close in the Champlain region of New York State and Vermont. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 8, 2017
Winegrape Society Awards $100,000 in Scholarships
American Society for Enology and Viticulture bestows awards at its 68th national conference. Read More
Carl and Dustin Grooms of Fancy Farms
Business Planning
July 11, 2017
Young Florida Farmers Ready to Take the Reins
As growers age, the next generation is stepping up and stepping into leadership roles on the farm. Read More
inspecting a citrus leaf for HLB symptoms
GenNext Growers
July 8, 2017
5 Crop Scouting Mistakes You Might Be Making
Inspecting fields for signs of pest pressure is critical to your farm’s success. But, are you doing it right? Read More
GenNext Growers
July 5, 2017
National Young Farmer Coalition Members Show Support for Farm Bill
Young growers speak up about issues that impact the next generation of growers. Read More
cash money in hand
GenNext Growers
July 5, 2017
Ag Trade Association Awards Give $117,000 in College Scholarships
Awards to 59 students this year and previous years now exceeds $1.3 million in total. Read More
GenNext Growers
June 29, 2017
Cornell Graduate Student Earns Grape Disease Research
Doctoral candidate recognized by American Society of Enology and Viticulture for work studying sour rot pathogens. Read More
girl on smartphone
GenNext Growers
June 24, 2017
Find the Food Safety Apps That Are Right for You
There are a lot of choices available for growers. We’ve sifted through them to help figure out which ones will best suit you. Read More
Online shopping graphic for GenNext Growers webcast
GenNext Growers
May 22, 2017
How to Make Dollars and Sense of Today’s Produce Marketplace Mayhem
Despite current challenges impacting the future of the North American fruit and vegetable industry, there are opportunities to be had. Read More
Gary Reeder of West Coast Tomato/McClure Family Farms in Florida
GenNext Growers
May 18, 2017
Five Delegates to Represent U.S. at Youth Agriculture Summit
More than 1,000 applied as delegates to help tackle global food security challenge at international event. Read More
GenNext Growers
April 22, 2017
Next Generation of Leaders Gets Yearlong Almond Immersion
Almond Leadership Program enters its ninth year with the 2017 class. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 19, 2017
Young Apple Growers Meet with Lawmakers
Apple leaders from across the country discuss ag issues such as labor, trade, and research. Read More
Vijay Kumar giving TED Talk on ag innovation
GenNext Growers
April 17, 2017
TED Talks Take on Agriculture Innovation
The popular short-form presentations address the future of food production. Read More
The Latest
GenNext Growers
October 1, 2017
USDA Announces $12.6M to Train Next Gene…
Future ag scientists are looking to tackle exotic invasive pests, water quality monitoring. Read More
GenNext Growers
September 21, 2017
Advice for Taking Over the Family Farm
If you are considering joining and running your family business, here are some tips to ensure success. Read More
Farm Management
September 10, 2017
$3 Million Available to Train Future Agr…
There are a lot more jobs being created than there are graduates with bachelor’s or higher degrees who can fill them. Read More
GenNext Growers
September 4, 2017
New Collaboration Hopes to Boost Youth I…
Bayer, 4-H partner to increase interest in science among young people nationwide and cultivate the next generation of innovators shaping agriculture, food, and health. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 22, 2017
Top Alternative Crops GenNext Growers Sh…
Now is a good time for you to think about what new selections might pay off. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 17, 2017
Young Growers See Evolving Orchard Produ…
A group of 30 got a chance to see operations boasting vertical integration and higher production per acre up close in the Champlain region of New York State and Vermont. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 8, 2017
Winegrape Society Awards $100,000 in Sch…
American Society for Enology and Viticulture bestows awards at its 68th national conference. Read More
Business Planning
July 11, 2017
Young Florida Farmers Ready to Take the …
As growers age, the next generation is stepping up and stepping into leadership roles on the farm. Read More
GenNext Growers
July 8, 2017
5 Crop Scouting Mistakes You Might Be Ma…
Inspecting fields for signs of pest pressure is critical to your farm’s success. But, are you doing it right? Read More
GenNext Growers
July 5, 2017
National Young Farmer Coalition Members …
Young growers speak up about issues that impact the next generation of growers. Read More
GenNext Growers
July 5, 2017
Ag Trade Association Awards Give $117,00…
Awards to 59 students this year and previous years now exceeds $1.3 million in total. Read More
GenNext Growers
June 29, 2017
Cornell Graduate Student Earns Grape Dis…
Doctoral candidate recognized by American Society of Enology and Viticulture for work studying sour rot pathogens. Read More
GenNext Growers
June 24, 2017
Find the Food Safety Apps That Are Right…
There are a lot of choices available for growers. We’ve sifted through them to help figure out which ones will best suit you. Read More
GenNext Growers
May 22, 2017
How to Make Dollars and Sense of Today&#…
Despite current challenges impacting the future of the North American fruit and vegetable industry, there are opportunities to be had. Read More
GenNext Growers
May 18, 2017
Five Delegates to Represent U.S. at Yout…
More than 1,000 applied as delegates to help tackle global food security challenge at international event. Read More
GenNext Growers
April 22, 2017
Next Generation of Leaders Gets Yearlong…
Almond Leadership Program enters its ninth year with the 2017 class. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 19, 2017
Young Apple Growers Meet with Lawmakers
Apple leaders from across the country discuss ag issues such as labor, trade, and research. Read More
GenNext Growers
April 17, 2017
TED Talks Take on Agriculture Innovation
The popular short-form presentations address the future of food production. Read More