WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2012 – The latest survey of participants in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program shows an even split between government regulations and land availability as the top challenges young farmers face today. The informal survey of young farmers and ranchers, ages 18-35, was conducted at AFBF’s 2012 YF&R Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., in February.

A total of 21 percent of young farmers surveyed ranked burdensome government regulations and “red tape” as a top concern; an additional 21 percent cited securing adequate land to grow crops and raise livestock as their top challenge.

“Most young farmers and ranchers would like to stay on the farm or ranch their entire lives,” said Glen Cope, AFBF’s national YF&R committee chair and a beef cattle producer from Missouri. “One of the biggest challenges many of us have faced is getting enough capital to start farming. And then, once we are established, regulatory costs can be the wildcard that determines whether we can be successful enough to stay on the land.”

Other issues ranked as top concerns in the AFBF survey included economic challenges, particularly profitability, 11 percent; availability of farm labor and related regulations, 8 percent; and willingness of parents to turn over the reins of the farm or ranch, 7 percent.

When asked to name the top three steps the federal government should take to help young farmers and ranchers, cutting government spending was the number 1 response, with 20 percent listing this as most important. Sixteen percent of those surveyed said the government should provide financial help to beginning farmers, while 12 percent indicated reforming environmental regulations should be first on the list.

“Cutting government spending will help reduce the nation’s mammoth government debt,” said Cope. “However, providing assistance to help beginning farmers get started in food production would be money well spent. And reforming burdensome environmental regulations will be good for all of agriculture and America.”

The 20th annual YF&R survey revealed that 94 percent of those surveyed are more optimistic about farming and ranching than they were five years ago. Last year, 87 percent of those surveyed said they were more optimistic about farming than they were five years ago.

More than 96 percent considered themselves lifetime farmers, while 98 percent would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. The informal survey reveals that 92 percent believe their children will be able to follow in their footsteps.

The AFBF survey shows that 61 percent of young and beginning farmers use conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.

Communication and Internet

A majority, 93 percent, of those surveyed reported using a computer in their farming operation. Nearly all of those surveyed, 99 percent, have access to the Internet. High-speed Internet is used by 79 percent of those surveyed, with 20 percent relying on a satellite connection and just over 1 percent turning to dialup.

The popular social media site, Facebook, is used by 79 percent of those surveyed who use the Internet.

Finally, the survey points out that 71 percent of YF&R members consider communicating with consumers a formal part of their jobs.

“Young farmers and ranchers are becoming more comfortable when it comes to reaching out to consumers to participate in conversations they are having about food,” Cope said. “It’s important that we as farmers continue to explore and use all available tools to connect with consumers, whether that means social media platforms, personal outreach through farm tours, agri-tourism, farmers’ markets, or some combination.”


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