Securing adequate land to grow crops and raise livestock was the top challenge identified in the latest survey of participants in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program. That challenge was identified by 20 percent of respondents, followed by burdensome government regulations and “red tape,” which was identified by15 percent of the young farmers and ranchers responding.
“Access to adequate land to begin farming or expand an established operation is a major concern for today’s young farmers,” said Zach Hunnicutt, AFBF’s national YF&R Committee chair and a crop farmer from Nebraska. “Another major challenge we all face in one form or another is the cost of complying with a maze of government regulations.”
Other issues ranked as top concerns included economic challenges, particularly profitability, 12 percent; water availability, 10 percent; taxes, 9 percent; health care availability and cost, 9 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 top response, with 24 percent listing this as most important. Twelve percent of those surveyed said maintaining the farm safety net was most important, while financial assistance for beginning farmers and tax reform were each cited by 11 percent as the priority that should be first on the list.
The 21st annual YF&R survey revealed that 90 percent of those surveyed are more optimistic about farming and ranching than they were five years ago. Last year, 94 percent of those surveyed said they were more optimistic about farming than they were five years ago.
The 2013 survey also shows 83 percent of the nation’s young farmers and ranchers say they are better off than they were five years ago. Last year, 94 percent reported being better off.
More than 94 percent considered themselves lifetime farmers, while 90 percent would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. The informal survey reveals that 84 percent believe their children will be able to follow in their footsteps.
The survey points out that 64 percent of YF&R members consider communicating with consumers a formal part of their jobs. Many use social media platforms as a tool to accomplish this. The popular social media site, Facebook, is used by 82 percent of those surveyed who use the Internet. Thirty percent of respondents said they use the social networking site Twitter, and 18 percent use YouTube to post videos of their farms and ranches.
“Use of technology to improve production practices on the farm and to interact with consumers – our customers – continues to grow,” Hunnicutt said. “Having instant access to information and communication tools is the ‘new normal’ and that’s not going to change,” he said.
Nearly 80 percent of young farmers and ranchers surveyed said they regularly use mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to communicate. That’s up from 66 percent last year.
Computers and the Internet remain vital tools for the nation’s young farmers and ranchers, with 92 percent surveyed reporting using a computer in their farming operation. Nearly all of those surveyed, 94 percent, have access to the Internet. High-speed Internet is used by 65 percent of those surveyed, with 22 percent relying on a satellite connection and just over 2 percent turning to dialup.
The survey also shows that America’s young farmers and ranchers are committed environmental caretakers, with 64 percent using conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.
AFBF President Bob Stallman said the annual YF&R survey underscores his belief that the future of U.S. agriculture is in good hands.
“The future looks bright for American agriculture and our nation as a whole, thanks to the commitment and solid knowledge base held by today’s young farmers and ranchers,” said Stallman.
The informal survey of young farmers and ranchers, ages 18-35, was conducted at AFBF’s 2013 YF&R Leadership Conference in Phoenix, Ariz., in February. The purpose of the YF&R program is to help younger members learn more about farming and ranching, network with other farmers and strengthen their leadership skills to assist in the growth of agriculture and Farm Bureau.