Dawn Thilmany McFadden and Suresh Sureshwaran, Guest Editors
The aging population of farmers and ranchers is a key issue in the U.S., so recent community-based and governmental programming targeting beginning farmers is popular. This issue showcases what is known about the newest cohort of ag producers, as well as highlighting the resources and programming focused on improving their chances for success.
Approximately 20% of U.S. farms and ranches are operated by those with 10 years or less of experience operating a farm. They cannot be easily characterized because of their diversity in farm and personal characteristics. However, many share similar challenges to getting started, relative to established farms and ranches.
For the first time ever, substantial resources were dedicated to beginning farmer and rancher initiatives in the 2008 Farm Bill. This article provides an overview of the status of different programs, and focuses on the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is the most significant beginning farmer initiative in the Bill.
A comprehensive, whole farm approach to risk management and decision making is needed by beginning farmers and ranchers. A representative farm methodology combined with online tools provides an opportunity for beginning producers to evaluate potential profitability of multiple scenarios utilizing a ten year baseline and user input.
Beginning farmers and ranchers are a noteworthy target audience for Extension programming because they require unique production and business planning tools, as well as mentoring and networking support. There is evidence that new resources and community support could open new avenues for less experienced agricultural producers and increase their opportunities for success.