Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee are pushing a $10 million initiative designed to help young farmers get started. Delaware is currently facing a growing age gap in its farming population. Over ¼ of the principal farm operators in the state are over 65 years old. The average age of Delaware farmers is over 55 years old. In addition to the increasing age gap, Delaware is also facing growing developments of agricultural land, resulting in the loss of countless acres of valuable farmland to suburban sprawl. These two pressures, combined with the overall economic difficulties faced by farmers across America, indicate a grim future for Delaware agriculture.
Markell and Kee’s plan, however, seeks to reverse these trends. The governor pledged to restore $10 million to the state’s Agricultural Land Preservation program, which seeks to halt the development of farmland, offering farmers loans and subsidies in exchange for a pledge to preserve agricultural land. In addition, $3 million will go the Delaware Young Farmers Program, which allows farmers under 40 to borrow money at zero or low interest rates. These loans, which would be a part of the ALP program, would help younger farmers get started, giving them the necessarily capital to start long-lasting farms.
According to a recent University of Delaware report, farming is a major, if unsung, part of the state economy. In order for this vital segment of the economy to flourish, the report claims, the state requires significant amounts of farmland. Governor Markell hopes that this reinvestment will send a message to the people of Delaware that the state takes agricultural production seriously and is making a major commitment to the preservation of farming.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer