Young farmers and ranchers shared their view of the industry last weekend, identifying trends they’re most excited about as well as areas of concern.

Participants of the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference on Jan. 24 and 25 are embracing the growing use of technology to manage farm operations more efficiently and increase production.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau reports more than half of the participants in the survey said the growth in technology, in seeds, machinery and the general scope of precision farming where inputs and management decisions are made on more detailed level, are the most exciting thing about being involved in agriculture.

“The use of technology to improve production practices on the farm and to allow us to better protect the environment – our land and water – and grow more with less is important,” Todd Reed, chair of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers committee, said Jan. 30. “Having instant access to information and incorporating communication tools into agriculture is the ‘new normal’ and that’s not going to change.”  

Technology continue to play a vital role in the agricultural industry as land and water resources are affected by consecutive years of drought.

Ranchers at the conference are excited about the rebound in the cattle industry and attendees are optimistic about the number of ag-related jobs, both on and off the farm. Ranchers are anticipating more moisture this year and better grazing pastures as drought conditions ease.

Terry Klopfenstein, animal sciences professor at the University of Nebraska, says cattle producers are ready to expand their operations, converting corn fields back to pasture as corn values decline.

The conference helps a new generation of farmers and ranchers address issues they may have not experienced on their own.

The young audience raised in the era of social media is aware of their responsibility to share agricultural production from the farmer’s point of view. Participants view the public’s disconnect with agriculture as a primary concern, fueled by persuasive communication tactics by major companies like Chipotle and Panera.

If we aren't telling our story somebody else will. And if we don't tell our story, we're not going to have a story to tell at some point,” Reed said.  

The survey found the group is also facing challenges with the growth in activist groups who oppose modern farming practices and increasing government regulations for farm operations.