While there may be many reasons young people aren't getting into farming, student loans are a large concern for college students who are considering a career in farming.
As many of America's current farmers are nearing the age of retirement, or have already retired, new hands are needed to take over for the future of farming, Sarah McColl reported for TakePart digital magazine.
“Student loans are a huge, huge obstacle for young people pursuing farming careers,” Lindsey Lusher Shute, executive director and cofounder of the National Young Farmers Coalition and the co-owner of New York’s Hearty Roots Community Farm, told McColl. “Farmers in their first few years working as interns or apprentices, or even starting out on their own as independent farmers, they’re making a pretty low income. To pay a student loan on top of that is very expensive and almost impossible.”
The National Young Farmers Coalition is using its "Farming is Public Service" campaign to push for farmers to be included in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which gives students incentive to go into high-need, low-income fields in education, medicine and government. Students in the program are allowed to make income-based payments on their student loans. The program also forgives the balance of the debt after 120 payments and 10 years of full-time employment in a qualifying field.
Adding farming to the loan forgiveness program could help fill the large generation gap in farming that many worry will lead to a shortage of food producers in the U.S. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, estimates that within the next few years, the U.S. needs 100,000 new farmers.