According to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, the average age of the American farmer has been steadily increasing and is currently 58 years old. That statistic, combined with the fact that the number of new farmers was down 20% in 2012 has many people concerned about the future of farming. Which leads to the question: how can young people be encouraged to become farmers?
On February 15, a bi-partisan group of U.S. Representatives (Reps. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania, Joe Courtney of Connecticut and John Faso of New York), working with the National Young Farmers Coalition, reintroduced the Young Farmer Success Act (H.R. 1060). The Act addresses one of the barriers to young people getting into farming, namely, student loan debt. The Act proposes to allow farmers to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This program allows public service professionals who have made 10 years of student loan payments while working in public service to have the balance of their loans forgiven. Other professions included in this forgiveness program include government service officials, law enforcement officers, teachers, and nurses.
Representative Thompson commented, “The skyrocketing cost of higher education and the growing burden of student loan debt are presenting major obstacles for young farmers. The burden of student loan debt can thwart their ability to purchase the farming operations they need to get started or drive them away from a career in agriculture altogether. This legislation would assist new farmers during the costly, initial phases of opening a farming business, and allow them a fighting chance to build a life on the farm for themselves and their families.”
To send your U.S. Representative an email in support of the Young Farmer Success Act, check out this link from the National Young Farmers Coalition.
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