An advocacy network of farmers fighting for the future of agriculture traveled from nine states to meet with legislators in Washington, D.C. recently. Why did they leave their farms and ranches at one of the busiest times of the year? The reason is simple: to advocate for support in the upcoming farm bill and gain a place at the table. They are members of the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), the only national group solely focused on young farmers.
“The 2018 Farm Bill is make or break for millennials who want to farm,” Lindsey Lusher Shute, the co-founder and executive director of NYFC said in a news release from the group. “Unless we tackle affordable land, student debt and health care now, few of these young farmers and ranchers will make agriculture a lifelong career. With two-thirds of our farmland ready to transition, the next Farm Bill must be devoted to young farmers, who stand ready to work the land and feed our nation.”
The age of the average farmer continues to creep up, though it is slightly lower in the pork sector than in some other agriculture sectors. Some older farmers have done an excellent job of developing succession plans to bring in the next generation (see the cover story of PORK’s June issue, pages 10-14), but even for those families, issues related to profitability, health care and a multitude of others concerns exist.
The NYFC farmers traveled from AZ, CO, GA, IA, MD, MN, MT, NM and PA, to meet with elected officials serving on the Senate and House committees. Their efforts were focused on legislators serving on committees for agriculture, budget appropriations, education, environment and the workforce.
The legislators they spoke with included: Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Steve Daines (R-MT), David Perdue (R-GA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); as well as Representatives Austin Scott (R-GA), Scott Tipton (R-CO); Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) and Tom O’Halleran, (D-AZ).
“We were heartened to receive such a positive response from legislators who now better understand the challenges young farmers face in their districts,” Andrew Bahrenburg, national policy director for NYFC said in the news release. “Armed with real stories from the constituents that they serve, they are ready to fight for young farmer interests in the next farm bill.”
The young farmers’ efforts are just beginning with the fly-in. This summer, NYFC members will hold roundtable discussions with elected officials in key states. And this fall, the group says it will announce the results of its signature national survey of young farmers and ranchers, and hold another fly-in in Washington, D.C.