Farmers Unsure of their Future

Farmers across the country report feeling unsure about the future of American farming, a number of studies suggest, largely due to the steadily increasing age of the farm community and their inability to attract young people to the agricultural profession.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that fewer than 40 percent of American farmers have a plan for the future of their farmland. In addition, the study revealed that the average age of farmers is continuing to rise (with some states reporting average ages approaching sixty and with nearly one-fourth of the farm population reaching retirement age).

This report paints a grim picture for the farm industry, particularly in an era of rapid urban and suburban development. Across the country, local communities are expanding roads and highways as well as commercial areas, often building over prime farmland. While some states have attempted to pass farmland protection acts that allow farmers to sell development rights to the state and preserve the agricultural function of thousands of acres of land, these programs are often woefully underfunded.

The federal government appears responsive to the concerns of the farm community. Earlier this month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced new USDA grants available to young farmers entering the profession. These grants were designed to absorb some of the costs of starting a farm, allowing a younger generation to enter the agricultural business.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer