Last week, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act was introduced in Congress by Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).
The bill is to ensure the 2018 Farm Bill focuses on the future of American agriculture by driving investment toward programs and policies that create opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
According to Anna Johnson, Center for Rural Affairs policy program associate, the average age of today’s farmer is 58 years old. Over the course of the next five years (the duration of the next farm bill), nearly 100 million acres of farmland are predicted to change hands.
“While some retiring farmers and ranchers will pass their land and operations to their children or other relatives, many are heading toward retirement without a succession plan in place,” Johnson said. “And, beginning farmers taking over lack guidance. We need to support policies that ensure they have the necessary tools and resources to be successful.”
The bill expands beginning farmer and rancher access to affordable land; empowers producers with the skills needed to succeed in today’s agricultural economy; ensures equitable access to financial capital and federal crop insurance; and encourages commitment to conservation and land stewardship.
Earlier this month Representatives Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) and Ryan Costello (PA-06) introduced the bipartisan Young and Beginning Farmers Act (H.R. 4201) in the House of Representatives. The bill addresses critical barriers facing young people as they seek to begin careers in agriculture. The Act would support the next generation of farmers and ranchers by expanding their access to affordable farmland, improving outreach and delivery of federal programs to new farmers, and increasing investments in training, business development, and local markets.
“Young people are stepping up and starting careers in agriculture despite significant odds,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, executive director and co-founder of the National Young Farmers Coalition. “But they can’t do it alone. The future of farming and our rural communities depends on their success. We urge Congress to make young farmers a priority and include the Young and Beginning Farmers Act in the next farm bill.”