Lawmakers Are Exploring Ways to Support Beginning Farmers

The list of challenges young farmers need to overcome in order to start their own farm is increasingly long. Lately, getting into farming has been further complicated by the rising cost of inputs such as fertilizer, paired with the high price of land, climate-related extreme weather events and global supply chain issues.

And with the average age of the American farmer hovering at around 60—meaning many of them are on a fast track to retirement—leaders in the industry are looking to incentivize younger generations to get into the ag business with capital and credit.

At a July 14 hearing on the subject, called “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The State of Credit for Young, Beginning, and Underserved Producers,” House Agriculture Committee chairman David Scott said: “We must ensure that the next generation of men and women who take the place of those retiring from this grand occupation have the tools necessary to continue to produce the food and fiber that we rely on for our existence.”

The meeting was one of many happening now and in the coming weeks in Washington as the House Agriculture Committee gears up to finalize the 2023 Farm Bill.

Historically, as addressed at the meeting, both young farmers and farmers of color have been passed over by lenders, while older, experienced farmers have been favored and granted more capital—resulting in a largely white and middle-aged demographic of farmers in America today.

Even with loan programs targeted specifically towards younger demographics, the process of getting the money needed to start a farm can be convoluted and slow, creating roadblocks on beginning farmers’ paths to success.

Scott called access to credit and capital a “pillar to establishing a successful agricultural operation” and said the discussion of how the federal government can support young farmers who are just starting out is an important factor for the future of farming.

But beginning the discussion now won’t be enough to mitigate issues for farmers starting out in 2022. Nathan Kauffman, vice president and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in Omaha, Nebraska, noted that, in response to all the rising costs in the agricultural industry, the demand for farm loans is expected to rise exponentially this year, while capital expenditures are expected to drop—for the first time since 2020—according to Successful Farming.

Still, lawmakers are searching for ways to resolve the issues within the agricultural lending system, as laid out in the meeting, and add new ways to support new farmers in the next farm bill, which will be released in 2023 and govern the industry for the next five years.

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