Mary Clare Ahearn
The number and share of farmers beginning careers in farming has been declining for decades, contributing to the advancing age of the current farmer population. This theme of articles presents some current and policy solutions to addressing the well-known challenges of entering farming, including training and access to farmland.
Jill S. Auburn, Denis Ebodaghe, Desiree K. Rucker-Ross and Wesley R. Dean
USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) funds organizations to provide education and assistance to farmers and ranchers in their first ten years of operation and who aspire to enter farming and ranching. BFRDP has funded 256 awards in all 50 states since the program began in 2009.
Heidi J. Bubela
Young and beginning farm households benefit from the continued trend of increasing off-farm income. The agricultural boom created opportunity to bring young people back to the farm. As record farm profits fade, the role of off-farm income as a risk management tool in these households will only grow.
Charles B. Dodson and Bruce L. Ahrendsen
Though beginning farmers were present on over 20% of U.S. farms in 2014, fewer than half reported any debt. While most farms with debt received credit entirely from commercial lenders, USDA’s Farm Service Agency was an important credit source. One-in-seven indebted farms with a beginning farmer had an FSA loan.
Over the last decade, policymakers have begun addressing some of the challenges faced by beginning farmers; an important step toward developing a more sustainable food system. As the 2018 Farm Bill approaches, Congress can make even greater strides by tackling long-standing issues such as access to land and capital.