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."
The grim joke in agriculture is that, considering the cost of land and equipment, the only way to become a farmer is to be born into a farm family or marry into one. A recent USDA survey underlined the hurdle of acquiring land, finding that landlords prefer to keep ownership in the family and expect to sell a comparatively modest 21 million acres to outsiders over the next five years. "This means that only a small percentage of farmland will be available for new entrants into the farming sector," said USDA. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is considering an in-depth study of the land-access question. "We're working on that concept," he told the James Beard Foundation conference.
World Food Prize laureate Pedro Sanchez, a soils scientist, says Cuba "could be a very good market" for U.S. food companies, but adds that "it's not a one-way situation." In an interview with UC Food Observer, Sanchez said, "America has so much to learn from Cuba. Some of the agricultural techniques used in Cuba may benefit our food system."
The Affordable Care Act gives farmers more options for health insurance than they had in the past, says Harvest Public Media. Farmers and ranchers traditionally are among the least likely to have insurance...
The average age of U.S. farmers is on the rise - 57.8 in 2012 vs 53.2 in 1997, according to USDA data. But economist Todd Keuthe of U-Illinois says that "a closer look at the data reveals the 'aging farmer problem' may be overstated by some."
The largest bloc of U.S. farmers, those aged 65 and over, owns or leases one-third of the 980 million acres of farmland in the country, writes economist David Widmar, adding, "How the land held by older producers is transferred, and the timing, will have major implications for the industry."
"One of the best-known trends in American agriculture is the aging farmer," writes David Widmar at the blog Agricultural Economic Insights, suggesting one result will be increased concentration of farmland ownership.
The average age of U.S. farmers is a frequent topic of concern because it is fairly high - 58 years in 2011, according to a new USDA report on the structure and finances of family farms.
Sixty years after the Double T dairy farm went into business in California's Central Valley, owner Tony Azevedo sold his cattle, partly due to unrelenting drought and partly out of frustration over disagreements with his son on transfer of the business to a new generation.
One of the most-reported statistics about American agriculture is the rising average age of farmers - 58.3 years in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, an increase of 1.2 years from the 2007 census, writes economist David Widmar at the blog Agricultural Economic Insights.