One-third of America’s 3.4 million farmers are over the age of 65, and nearly a million more of them are within a decade of that milestone, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, released by the USDA on Thursday. For decades, the aging U.S. farmer has been a cause for concern, expressed in this question: Who will feed America in the future? [No paywall]
In a speech on the future of agriculture, a former USDA official forecast a fundamental shift in the demographic makeup of the food and ag sector.
The great majority farmers under the age of 35 hold a college degree, significantly higher than the U.S. average. It is a cohort that "is already contributing to the growth of the local-food movement and could help preserve the place of midsize farms in the rural landscape," says the Washington Post. It cites the 2012 Census of Agriculture as saying the number of farmers under the age of 35 is increasing for only the second time in a generation.
In a case of statistical whiplash, the average age of the Canadian farmer is up at the same time the country's Census of Agriculture found a 3 percent increase in the number of farm operators under the age of 35. "This is the first time that there has been an increase in this age category since 1991," said Statistics Canada, which conducts the census every five years.
Experts say farming in Africa needs to be modernized and "transformed" to make it more appealing to young people as a way of life, Reuters reports. According to the FAO, the average age of farmers on the continent is 60, while 60-percent of the population is under 24.
Nine of 10 New England farmers likely to retire in the coming two decades "are farming without a young farmer alongside them," raising questions about the future of many of the farms, says a study from American Farmland Trust and Land for Good.
In conjunction with the meeting of G-7 farm ministers, Japan's agriculture minister Hiroshi Moriyama discussed his idea "of replacing retiring growers with Japanese-developed autonomous tractors and backpack-carried robots," said Bloomberg.
Only 6 percent of farm managers in Europe are under the age of 35, but 31 percent are 65 or older, says the news site EurActiv in a series of infographics.
An Agriculture Ministry report says 2.09 million people work in agriculture and forestry in Japan, a drop of nearly 20 percent in five years, said Kyodo news service. "The ministry attributed the drop to many people quitting the farming and forestry business as they grow older. The average age of those in the sector was 66.3 years, up six months from five years ago."