Soybean South

 - PERSPECTIVE -

YF&Rs Anticipate
Bright Future

 

The availability of land and farm facilities and overall profitability remain the top challenges of America’s young farmers and ranchers. However, they also believe they are better off today than five years ago, and they are more optimistic about the future of farming.

These are just a few of the key findings of an informal survey of young U.S. farmers and ranchers, ages 18-35, conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). Overall, the 16th annual survey of participants in AFBF’s Young Farmer & Rancher (YF&R) Program, conducted during the 2008 YF&R conference held in Baltimore, Md., shows the future of U.S. agriculture is in caring and competent hands.

“Despite facing some significant challenges, young farmers and ranchers are enthusiastic about the future of agriculture,” AFBF YF&R chair Townsend Kyser says.

Kyser, formerly chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Young Farmers state committee from Greensboro, Ala., was elected to lead Farm Bureau’s young farmers and ranchers in January.

YF&R survey results
Following land and facility availability (36 percent) and overall profitability (20 percent) as the two top concerns, young farmers and ranchers cite increasing urbanization and loss of farmland (14 percent), government regulations (11 percent) and the availability and costs of health care (10 percent) as the next most pressing challenges. For the first time, young farmers and ranchers were asked if state and local issues, such as property taxes, concern them more than federal issues, and 75 percent responded in the affirmative.

Once again, the vast majority of young farmers and ranchers (83 percent) said they are more optimistic about farming than five years earlier. In 2007, 79 percent of those surveyed said they were more optimistic, and the percentage of respondents feeling more optimistic has hovered around 80 percent since 2004. In 2003, 61 percent said they were more optimistic.

When young farmers and ranchers were asked if they feel better off now than five years ago, 90 percent indicated they are better off now. Back in 2000, 70 percent said they were better off than five years previously, the lowest percentage since the survey’s inception in 1993.

In addition, 92 percent of today’s young farmers and ranchers see themselves remaining in farming for the rest of their lives, and 95 percent would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. Eighty-four percent believe their children will be able to follow them in farming and ranching if they choose to do so. Most (43 percent) of the individuals surveyed said they got started in farming and ranching as a result of a family partnership, but 30 percent said they started in agriculture on their own, without benefit of family ties.

The Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) provided information for this article.