Investing in Young MN Farmers and Ranchers as a Generation Ages
Friday, April 26, 2013
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Legislation has been introduced in Congress that supporters say is vital to the economic future of rural America – and the country as a whole.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act would provide a number of options for those wanting to start a career in agriculture.
The act, says Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota, would cover a wide range of concerns, including conservation incentives and training, since farming is an increasingly complex business.
"It takes more than just a skilled hand at planting,” he explains. “It takes business acumen, and we've seen some really good returns on folks taking the training, taking on opportunities with some of the programs with the set-asides and then making it work and choosing that as a career."
Walz adds the act can be a stand-alone, but he's hopeful that it will be included when the House and the Senate finally agree on a new five-year Farm Bill.
Walz says the act would also help the next generation to overcome initial barriers and create a more diversified agricultural economy, which is in everyone's best interest.
"We like to harken back to the times when rural America was thriving,” he says. “Well, people have to be on the land and agriculture has to work, because, especially in rural America, the small towns are, of course, dependent on the agricultural bases there."
Among those young farmers who have been helped by rural development programs is Ryan Batalden, who raises crops and livestock near Lamberton in southwest Minnesota.
Batalden notes that with the average age of a farmer in the U.S. at 57, this funding is more important now than ever.
"I think that there's a huge need for it,” he says, “for America to invest in its beginning farmers with the average age of most farmers being almost near retirement and the expectation that a lot of the land in the U.S. is going to change hands in the next 10 to 20 years."
A central component of the bill is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Since 2009, there have been more than 500 applications submitted, but less than a third of them were able to receive funding.
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