The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering the University of Wyoming a $670,000 federal grant to fund programs to train future farmers and ranchers. The grant is part of a federal agricultural training program authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Over the past several years, participation in agricultural production has steadily declined. While the industry as a whole is still thriving, the average age of farmers in the United States is increasing each year, with the current average hovering in the mid fifties.
These continuing trends are worrying agricultural officials, who fear for the long-term sustainability of the entire industry. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan stated in a press release, “Our farmers are aging, and more of our young people are looking outside of farming for their careers. It’s time to reverse these trends, keep farmers on the farm and help beginning farmers and ranchers thrive in their careers.”
The grant will go towards extending the University of Wyoming’s ranch management program, which is designed to prepare and train farmers and ranchers for future careers in the ag industry. In addition, the funding will go towards the creation of new classes at the university as well as some small scholarships to help lure interest college students in agricultural science majors.
Ranching is particularly important to Wyoming, whose ranch population’s average age is between 56 and 57. As older ranchers retire, much of the state’s valuable ranching land is being sold to developers. Encouraging young people to enter the ranching industry will stop this hemorrhage, state officials hope.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer