With the average age of a farmer at nearly 60 years, and millions of acres expected to change hands over the next few years, many Americans are thinking about who the next generation of producers will be.
Investment in the next generation of producers is garnering attention with key congressional leaders who participate in the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and the Secretary of Agriculture. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the farm bill, included many program changes that were targeted to improve access to farm programs for beginning, socially-disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers. Despite these policy advances, many producers face barriers that impede their ability to start or maintain successful farming operations.
The need for support of the next generation of producers is evident in our home state of Nebraska. Nebraska’s aging farmer population is on par with the national average. Nearly 47,000 farms and ranches in the state provide 6 percent of all U.S. agriculture sales. And, the 3rd Congressional District leads the nation in total producers and number of farms. However, by the completion of the next Census of Agriculture in 2022, we can reasonably expect that many of Nebraska’s farms will have sold or been passed on to new owners.
According to the 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Nebraska landowners predicted a transfer of 4.45 million acres between 2014 and 2019. Approximately 360,000 acres would be sold to non-relatives, and more than 445,000 acres would be kept in the family. While this information has not been updated to reflect the most recent Census, it does show explicit need for supporting the next generation of producers.
To ensure the U.S. is able to maintain a multi-billion dollar agricultural industry and support rural communities, our policies must create opportunity for the next generation of those who intend to produce our food and fiber.
The intent of this publication is to highlight the needs of America’s next generation of producers, which includes individuals who served their country and who are now pursuing a second career in agriculture. Additionally, this publication will function as a guide to farm programs that specifically target beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers.
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