Student loan debt contributes to farmer shortage, survey says

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 24, 2015-- Results from a new survey conducted by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) show that student loan debt is one of the key barriers preventing young people from becoming farmers and ranchers.

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The report, Farming Is Public Service: A Case for Adding Farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, found that 30 percent of survey respondents delayed or declined to enter agriculture because of their student loans.

Over 700 NYFC members were surveyed for the report. They carried an average of $35,000 in student loans. Additionally, 28 percent of respondents said student loan pressure has prevented them from growing their business, and 20 percent reported being unable to obtain credit because of their student loans.

House lawmakers recently introduced legislation to add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The Young Farmer Success Act, introduced by Reps. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Joe Courtney, D-Conn., would place farming alongside careers such as nursing, teaching and law enforcement that already qualify for the program.

“Farming is a capital-intensive career with slim margins,” Lindsey Shute, NYFC executive director and co-founder, said in a press release. “Faced with student loan debt, many young people decide they can't afford to farm. In other cases, the bank decides for them by denying them the credit they need for land, equipment, and operations.” 

With the average age of farmers now at 58, the U.S. needs at least 100,000 new farmers over the next two decades, NYFC noted.

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