Young Farmers Key to Agricultural Growth

Encouraging young farmers to enter and stay in the agricultural profession may be the key to ensuring a stable agricultural sector and protecting long-term agricultural growth, some experts believe.

For the past twenty years, the average age of American farmers has significantly increased. While the farm sector overall is doing well, with farm incomes and crop prices at all time highs and with agricultural exports increasing, the long-term health of the agricultural industry is threatened by the gradual graying of the profession.

Over the last twenty years, the average age of farm operators has increased by 18 percent. The last agricultural census, done in 2007, reported the average farm age to be 56.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and various state agricultural organizations have been trying for the past several years to encourage a younger generation to enter the farm sector. These efforts have involved offering new farmers tax credits, special loans, and access to government grants.

These efforts appear to be paying off. Loans to beginning farmers are increasing, and major agricultural schools across the country report increased attendance. Iowa State University’s agricultural science program, for example, reported a 46 percent increase since 2005.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer