WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) and Congressman Glenn Thompson (PA-5) introduced the Farmers of Tomorrow Act, which is designed to make it easier for young farmers and veterans to purchase new land to begin a farming career.
“It is more important than ever that we encourage young people and veterans to pursue a career in agriculture,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “Lack of access to land is the top reason that too many aspiring young farmers end up choosing another career. This bill allows more new and beginning farmers to get loans, buy land, and begin their future in farming. I’m grateful to Congressman Thompson for working with me on this bipartisan legislation.”
“Access to land is essential for supporting the next generation of farmers and growing American agriculture,” Congressman Thompson said. “This commonsense legislation will further encourage new farmers and help strengthen rural communities. I am particularly pleased that the bill increases new farming opportunities for our men and women in uniform who have honorably served. I applaud Representative Bustos on this important bill.”
“There’s no single way to learn how to run a farm business,” Andrew Bahrenburg, national policy director for the National Young Farmers Coalition said. “A new generation of farmers is entering the business with a diversity of farming and management experience. This bill gives them the flexibility they need to access capital and launch their careers.”
New and beginning farmers can obtain ownership loans through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to buy land – but many are excluded due to outdated experience requirements that do not take into account the variety of paths future farmers can take to prepare to run their operation. The Farmers of Tomorrow Act allows new, beginning, or veteran farmers to count any of the following toward the current three year experience requirement to make it easier to access USDA financing.
- At least 16 hours of post-secondary education in a field related to agriculture
- Successful completion of a farm management curriculum
- At least one year of business management
- An honorable discharge from the United States military
- Successful repayment of a youth loan
- At least one year as hired farm labor with management responsibilities
- Successful completion of a farm mentorship, apprenticeship, or internship program
- An established relationship with an approved farm or ranch mentor
- Successful completion of a military leadership course
Agricultural real estate values doubled between 2004 and 2013. This year, the national average for farmland real estate value was $3,080. Not only has farmland become increasingly unaffordable, prospective owners are competing against large corporate farms and investors. Roughly a third of American farmland is not even owned by active farmers. Young farmers under age 35 who rent their land are likely to have more debt than farm owners.
Furthermore, America’s farmers are aging with few skilled operators to fill the void. For every farmer under the age of 35, there are six over the age of 65. Access to land is the top reason that young farmers leave the industry, and the reason that many aspiring farmers do not pursue a career in agriculture. The affordability of farmland poses a steep barrier to entry and, to attract first-generation farmers, it must be addressed.