Land is Top Concern of Young Farmers

US - Securing adequate land to grow crops and raise livestock was the top challenge identified in the latest survey of participants in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program. That challenge was identified by 20 per cent of respondents, followed by burdensome government regulations and "red tape," which was identified by 15 per cent of the young farmers and ranchers responding.
calendar icon 11 March 2013
clock icon 5 minute read

“Access to adequate land to begin farming or expand an established operation is a major concern for today’s young farmers,” said Zach Hunnicutt, AFBF’s national YF&R Committee chair and a crop farmer from Nebraska. “Another major challenge we all face in one form or another is the cost of complying with a maze of government regulations.”

Other issues ranked as top concerns included economic challenges, particularly profitability, 12 per cent; water availability, 10 per cent; taxes, 9 per cent; health care availability and cost, 9 per cent; availability of farm labor and related regulations, 8 per cent; and willingness of parents to turn over the reins of the farm or ranch, 7 per cent.

When asked to name the top three steps the federal government should take to help young farmers and ranchers, cutting government spending was the top response, with 24 per cent listing this as most important. 12 per cent of those surveyed said maintaining the farm safety net was most important, while financial assistance for beginning farmers and tax reform were each cited by 11 per cent as the priority that should be first on the list.

The 21st annual YF&R survey revealed that 90 per cent of those surveyed are more optimistic about farming and ranching than they were five years ago. Last year, 94 per cent of those surveyed said they were more optimistic about farming than they were five years ago.

The 2013 survey also shows 83 per cent of the nation’s young farmers and ranchers say they are better off than they were five years ago. Last year, 94 per cent reported being better off.

More than 94 per cent considered themselves lifetime farmers, while 90 per cent would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. The informal survey reveals that 84 per cent believe their children will be able to follow in their footsteps.

The survey points out that 64 per cent of YF&R members consider communicating with consumers a formal part of their jobs. Many use social media platforms as a tool to accomplish this. The popular social media site, Facebook, is used by 82 per cent of those surveyed who use the Internet. Thirty per cent of respondents said they use the social networking site Twitter, and 18 per cent use YouTube to post videos of their farms and ranches.

“Use of technology to improve production practices on the farm and to interact with consumers – our customers – continues to grow,” Mr Hunnicutt said. “Having instant access to information and communication tools is the ‘new normal’ and that’s not going to change,” he said.

Nearly 80 per cent of young farmers and ranchers surveyed said they regularly use mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to communicate. That’s up from 66 per cent last year.

Computers and the Internet remain vital tools for the nation’s young farmers and ranchers, with 92 per cent surveyed reporting using a computer in their farming operation. Nearly all of those surveyed, 94 per cent, have access to the Internet. High-speed Internet is used by 65 per cent of those surveyed, with 22 per cent relying on a satellite connection and just over 2 per cent turning to dialup.

The survey also shows that America’s young farmers and ranchers are committed environmental caretakers, with 64 per cent using conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said the annual YF&R survey underscores his belief that the future of US agriculture is in good hands.

“The future looks bright for American agriculture and our nation as a whole, thanks to the commitment and solid knowledge base held by today’s young farmers and ranchers,” said Mr Stallman.

The informal survey of young farmers and ranchers, ages 18-35, was conducted at AFBF’s 2013 YF&R Leadership Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, in February. The purpose of the YF&R program is to help younger members learn more about farming and ranching, network with other farmers and strengthen their leadership skills to assist in the growth of agriculture and Farm Bureau.

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