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Report Highlights Needs of Young Farmers

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

A new report released by the National Young Farmers’ Coalition reveals some of the top barriers facing young and beginning farmers in the U.S. today. Building a Future with Farmers: Challenges Faced by Young, American Farmers and a National Strategy to Help Them Succeed includes results from 1,000 young farmers across the country who were surveyed in order to identify specific challenges and most useful resources confronting those who want to farm.

Access to capital, access to land and access to health insurance were among the top obstacles reported by beginning farmers who took part in the survey. Apprenticeships, local partnerships and community supported agriculture were cited as the most valuable programs for beginners.

“Everyone wants young farmers to succeed—we all know that,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, director of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, who oversaw the survey. “But no one was addressing this big elephant in the room, which was capital and land access.”

Findings

Some of the report findings include:

  • 78 percent of farmers ranked lack of capital as a top challenge for beginners, with another 40 percent ranking access to credit as the biggest challenge.

  • 68 percent of farmers ranked land access as the biggest challenge faced by beginners.

  • 70 percent of farmers under 30 rented land, as compared to 37 percent of farmers over 30.

  • 74 percent of farmers ranked apprenticeships as among the most valuable programs for beginners.

Although some of the barriers that new farmers face are typical of starting any new business, farming still remains a unique business in many ways. For example, land is an absolute necessity for anyone wishing to farm for a living, and is almost impossible to access in some parts of the country unless handed down from one generation to the next. In addition, development pressure on rural and peri-urban farmland coupled with the current high commodity prices has caused the price of land to skyrocket in many areas of the country. Not only are new and aspiring farmers finding scarce farmland available for sale, but those parcels that are on the market often command a price tag that is out of reach to many young farmers who lack the start-up capital to buy land outright.

Federal Programs

The National Young Farmers’ Coalition hopes that these survey results will be used by U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal policymakers to make policy changes and support programs that serve young and beginning farmers. The barriers presented in this study do much to highlight the need for many critical farm programs that currently exist to help beginning farmers and ranchers get started in farming, such as:

  • Transition Incentives Program, which increases beginning farmers’ ability to access land that is coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program

These important federal programs have provided assistance to thousands of farmers and ranchers over the years, and are considered to be some of the most successful programs targeted directly to those who wish to enter farming.

New Beginning Farmer Bill in Congress

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011, a comprehensive piece of legislation that was recently introduced in Congress, supports reauthorization and adequate funding for all of these programs, and many others that play a pivotal role in supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and its allies such as the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, will continue to advocate for the inclusion of beginning farmer programs and policies in the upcoming farm bill.

Check here to see if your representative or senators are co-sponsors of the beginning farmer bill.

To read the full report published by the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, click here.

To learn more about the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, click here.

For more information, click here.

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"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

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Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


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