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]
Reps. Sean Maloney of New York state and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania unveiled a U.S. House bill to help young and beginning farmers get established. The sponsors said action is needed because of the advancing average age of U.S. farmers, nearly 60 in the 2012 Ag Census.
In a survey, beginning farmers say some of their biggest headaches are USDA paperwork and uncooperative staff at their local USDA office. "These challenges are solvable," said the National Young Farmers Coalition, which recommends USDA train some of the county office staff in dealing with new farmers and also asks USDA to "go small" in fitting its programs to the needs of young farmers, who usually have small operations.
After a roundtable discussion with beginning farmers in Iowa, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said their chief concern is finding land so they can set up their operations. "The continued focus on the estate tax makes no sense to me," said Vilsack, referring to the idea, popular in the farm sector, of abolishing the estate tax.
A survey of over 400 young farmers and ranchers in the western United States found that finding water was even more of an issue than access to land and capital, says Civil Eats.
The number of beginning farmers - those in agriculture for less than 10 years - is down by 20 percent in the new Census of Agriculture. Nine states had more beginning farmers in 2012 than in 2007 while the rest showed a decline, says the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in a blog.
Last week, the Ag Insider reported AgSec Vilsack's comments on working with a nonprofit group on a potential mentoring project for beginning farmers.