According to USDA, the average age of the U.S. farmer is 57 years old, and more young people are leaving the farm or ranch in pursuit of urban careers.
With so many farmers nearing retirement, the question looms, who will farm this land in 2025, a scant 13 years from now?
A recent USDA survey forewarns of an impending crisis in agriculture. It’s not about too many rules and regulations restricting farmer profitability, inadequate farm policy or rising input costs, although these factors could very well play into the crisis.
It’s not about land, water or conservation. There are plenty of rules in place to preserve these resources.
Little has been done, however, to encourage the next generation of farmers to step in and provide society’s food, feed, fuel and fiber. With so many U.S. farmers so close to retirement, and a generation of young people less inclined to follow in their parents’ footsteps, one wonders, who will be farming this land in 2025, a scant 13 years from now?
Kevin Moore, an associate professor of agricultural economics, is teaching a class called “Returning to the Farm.” It’s aimed at preparing students to overcome the financial and personality hurdles of becoming a farmer.
“The purpose of the class is to teach students the skills they will need to overcome the financial and societal pressures they face when going back to the family farm or starting their own farms,” Moore says. “If students are prepared to face the first five years of business, they can be successful in the farming industry. This class helps them prepare for these situations.”
Moore believes many of today’s youth are more attracted to what they see as more lucrative, non-farming careers and an urban lifestyle. Public perception of agriculture has fallen in recent years, adding to the pressure to seek employment elsewhere.