The Farm Service Agency, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture tasked with managing conservation programs, federal farm loans, crop insurance, and a variety of other federal programs at a local level, recently announced several new tools being made available for beginning farmers.
Encouraging young people to enter the agricultural industry has been difficult, USDA officials admit. With fewer and fewer young farmers willing to enter the profession and replace retiring farmers, the industry is gradually aging. Over the past decade, the average age of American farmers has increased from 52 to 55, leaving many ag officials worried about the long-term stability of the farm sector.
One of the major barriers to young people entering the farm industry is the availability of capital, with many young people lacking sufficient assets to qualify for needed loans. Several individual states have sought to remedy this deficiency, offering special loans to young farmers for the purpose of buying land. As part of their effort to encourage young farmers, the FSA recently unveiled the Land Contract Guarantee Program, which encourages retiring farmers to sell and finance land to young and disadvantaged farmers.
In addition, the FSA has sought to make loans easier to obtain. New FSA rules allow loan officers to consider all prior farming experience, including on the job training and formal agricultural education, both of which had previously not been applicable.
These new rules, the FSA hopes, will help create a more diverse and more sustainable future for American agriculture.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer