The 2007 Census of Agriculture says young farmers are becoming an endangered species. Nationally, the number of farmers under 25 has decreased by 30 percent since 2002, and the average age of U.S. farmers has increased from 55 to 57 over the same time period. In Texas, the average age of farmers is now even older: almost 59.
So why are there fewer newcomers to production agriculture?
One reason is the lack of user-friendly, effective financing options. High start-up costs discourage young people from entering farming and ranching. As a result, we need to be mindful not to discourage our children or their friends when they express a desire to be farmers.
One young farmer told me she often hears families telling their children things like, “Farming is too hard, and too risky.”
It’s true that it takes a strong will and determination for young farmers to succeed, especially if they’re starting from scratch, but the same is true of many other industries. And regardless of the challenges they face, 92 percent of young farmers and ranchers see themselves as life-long farmers, according to a recent American Farm Bureau survey. So it’s important to help young farmers get started because once they do, they tend to continue for the long run.
Farming is often a difficult and challenging business, but thanks to the Texas Legislature, the Texas Department of Agriculture can help make things easier with four new programs created in the 81st Legislative Session. Our new Agricultural Loan Guarantee Program and expanded Interest Rate Reduction Program will provide financing tools for all of agriculture. There are also two new programs exclusively for young farmers - the Young Farmer Interest Rate Reduction Program and the first-ever Young Farmer Grant Program. These new initiatives will make farming a little lighter on the pocket book and even grant money to young producers. These programs are available after Sept. 1, and you can learn more about them by calling TDA at (800) TELL-TDA.