TIVOLI, NY –The National Young Farmer’s Coalition released a study today showing that the nation’s young and beginning farmers face tremendous barriers in starting a farming career. Building a Future With Farmers: Challenges Faced by Young, American Farmers and a National Strategy to Help Them Succeed surveyed 1,000 farmers from across the United States and found that access to capital, access to land and health insurance present the largest obstacles for beginners. Farmers rated farm apprenticeships, local partnerships and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) as the most valuable programs to help beginners.
“If Congress wants to keep America farming, then they must address the barriers that young people face in getting started,” says Lindsey Lusher Shute, Director of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition. “We need credit opportunities for beginning and diversified farmers, land policies that keep farms affordable for full-time growers and funding for conservation programs.”
Report findings include:
- 78% of farmers ranked “lack of capital” as a top challenge for beginners, with another 40% ranking “access to credit” as the biggest challenge.
- 68% of farmers ranked land access as the biggest challenge faced by beginners.
- 70% of farmers under 30 rented land, as compared to 37% of farmers over 30.
- 74% of farmers ranked apprenticeships as among the most valuable programs for beginners.
- 55% of farmers ranked local partnerships as one of the most valuable programs, and 49% ranked Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) as a top program.
Lack of capital was found to be the biggest challenge for beginners. Although the USDA’s Farm Service Agency offers loans to beginning farmers, current loan rules often disqualify even experienced farmers with good credit and small loans are hard to come by. For real estate transactions, FSA loans take too long to process — up to thirty days to qualify and up to a year to receive funds – and the $300,000 loan limit doesn’t go far in many real estate markets.
Land access was the second biggest concern. Farmers under the age of 30 were significantly more likely to rent land (70%) than those over 30 (37%). Over the last decade, farm real estate values and rents doubled making farm ownership next to impossible for many beginners.