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Programs > Agriculture & Food: Focus on the Farm Bill > Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

Setting the Stage for the 2012 Farm Bill


The average age of our nation’s farmers is 57 years old, and more than a quarter are 65 or older. Many are expected to retire within the next 20 years.

The problem is that our nation’s next generation of farmers face many obstacles in starting a farming career. It’s one thing to transfer operations to a large established farmer wanting to get even bigger, and quite another to transition to new and beginning farmers with the passion and skills to farm, but few resources to start.

Major Obstacles for Beginning Farmers:

LAND: Young farmers have great difficulty finding affordable land to purchase, or helpful landowners willing to make long-term lease agreements.

CAPITAL: Beginning farmers need better access to capital, credit and small operating loans; these are critical for business start-up and expansion.

HEALTH CARE: Health care is expensive for beginning farmers, but absolutely necessary given the occupational hazards of farming and safeguards for raising a family.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (BFROA) of 2011 has been introduced in Congress. Now is the time to move it forward and include it in the next Farm Bill. This new Act would improve existing credit programs so young and beginning farmers can access the financing necessary to run their businesses. It would reauthorize important conservation programs that foster new life-long stewards of the land. The Act would encourage innovative strategies for land transfer and farm entry.

Along with the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, NCRLC strongly advocates for this legislation. We also support the efforts of others who provide direct service to beginning farmers, as identified here:

The National Young Farmers Coalition is working diligently to represent the interests of young farmers in the US. Their recent report makes it clear: “It is not an exaggeration to say that the success of young farmers and our nation are intertwined. Both must share the responsibility to ensure that hard working, aspiring farmers have the opportunities they need to get started and to thrive.”

The Land Stewardship Project based in Minnesota has been in the forefront of helping young and beginning farmers. Their Farm Beginnings program is nationally recognized as a model for training new farmers in sustainable production and farm management.

The Center for Rural Affairs based in Nebraska is another organization striving to develop the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Visit their Land Link program to learn more about how to match retiring farmers with beginning farmers.

The Farm Transition Network is a similar effort to create links and support progams that foster the next generation of farmers and ranchers. The Network does so at both a national and international level.



A Primer on the Farm Bill

Action Timeline in Congress

Advocating Our Values

Commodity Programs

Conservation Programs

Crop Insurance Subsidies

Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs

Local Farms, Food & Jobs: New Legislation

Market Concentration & Livestock Operations

Renewable Energy from Farms

Research, Education and Extension

Rural Development

Sustainable Agriculture: Nation's New Foundation