|
|
|
McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Ag Young farmers face struggle to enter industry

  • Despite a need for more youth to enter farming, young farmers are finding daunting challenges to breaking into the ag industry.
    • email print
      Comment
  • Farmers 65 years of age and older is the fastest growing segment of the national agricultural community, according to agricultural census reports.
    As many farmers age out of the industry, demand for food products is increasing.
    The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates the world will need up to 70 percent more food production by 2050.
    Despite a need for more youth to enter farming, young farmers are finding daunting challenges to breaking into the ag industry.
    "This life takes a real mental toughness," said Joni James, the K-State Research and Extension Agriculture agent for McPherson County, "and not just for the single individual, but for his or her entire family."
    Simply purchasing the land to operate on can be a battle, as 46-year-old Jeff Smith, who operates S&S Farms, is quick to attest.
    "Coming up with capital to grow can be a tremendous challenge," Smith said. "The prices of land keep going up, and the competition for it is fierce. It's very difficult to compete with large corporate operations or older operators close to retirement who've had the years to set back investments and CDs. They're able to make a bigger return on their investment."
    Smith said land became a popular commodity to investors after the 2007 financial crash.
    "For a while, land was a popular, safe investment to these people," Smith said.
    James Anderson, 32, operates north of Galva and said he jumped into farming "with both feet." He said he also thought with land and equipment costs are high and a barrier to young farmers.
    "The cost of equipment can be a lot of trouble," Anderson said, "and with the newer equipment you can't work on it yourself."
    Smith also sees operation machinery as an issue.
    "It seems like the cost of the machinery goes up every year," Smith said, "and it can be difficult to stay updated on equipment."
    Anderson and Smith also said ever-changing government regulations is an issue as well.
    "It seems as if new regulations are coming out all the time," Smith said.
    Both farmers said the key to success for new farmers is connections.
    "You have to have connections to get started," Anderson said. "It helps to remember that farming is a marathon, not a sprint, and good connections can take time to develop."
    Smith recommends those interested in getting into farming to find a mentor already operating that would like to see their operation continue.
    "Find someone in your area that would like to see the farm live on," Smith said. "You trade your sweat equity for their equity."
    Ultimately, James said there should be more public concern over the increasing age of the nation's farmers.
    Page 2 of 2 - "More young people are getting into farming than they were 20 years ago," James said, "but we should still be concerned about what this could mean for food production and prices in this country. Relatively, in a global sense, we have a cheap, safe food supply in this nation. A friend who went to Canada once told me that they'd seen bacon on sale there for $14 a pound. Most Americans just don't get this. We should all have to shop somewhere else once in a while to really appreciate what we have here and what our nation's farmers provide us with."

        calendar