Limited access to farmland and its high costs are the greatest challenges to success facing the people who will operate the agriculture of America's future. That's according to a survey of 400 young and beginning farmers and ranchers.
The poll also shows very strong support for a reduction in subsidy payments under the farm bill and for elimination of the inheritance tax.
Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) sponsored the poll to gain insights into the challenges facing producers in the early stages of their careers in agriculture. Poll results were analyzed and released in mid-November. The poll was taken in September 2005.
The Young & Beginning Producers Poll was limited to respondents who were active farmers or ranchers working either full- or part-time, and age 35 or younger. Or, if between 36 and 40 years old, they were involved in farming or ranching operations for less than 10 years.
Lack of land available is big barrier
The availability of land and its high cost were mentioned by two out of five poll participants. Young producers with operations in the 500- to 999-acre size category were most likely to talk about their inability to afford land prices.
"I can get financing and all that, but I can't get a hold of any ground," said a 32-year-old Iowa producer. "Some people are financially able, but there is no land."
Young producers see a relationship between subsidy payments and escalating land prices. Nearly three-quarters â€“ 73% â€“ of those who participated in the poll would support lower payment limits. Abolition of the inheritance tax drew support from 70% of the respondents.
"Farm Credit Services of America has a long history as a key provider of financial services to the agriculture community in our service area," says Doug Stark, president and chief executive officer of FCSAmerica. "Our organization has made a special effort to bring dedicated products and services to young and beginning farmers and ranchers to help them succeed in their chosen professions."
Young producers have strong opinions
"We constantly look to do more for this group," adds Stark. "We sponsored this survey to help identify and give greater attention to the concerns of young and beginning producers whose success is critical to all involved in agriculture. These producers represent the future of our industry. It's apparent they have strong positions on some very important issues."
"By sharing this information, we hope the ag community and our colleagues in the education and policy arenas will join us in using this information to make a difference for young and beginning producers."
Jefferson Davis Associates, a research and polling firm based in Cedar Rapids conducted the survey of young and beginning farmers and ranchers in FCSAmerica's four-state area â€“ Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Poll asked farmers about many topics
The poll inquired about producers' reasons for involvement in farming; global, national and local issues that challenge their success; the rating of specific issues relevant to young and beginning farmers and ranchers; the subsidy and inheritance tax policy questions; and their level of optimism toward the future.
The sample distribution closely matched the percentage of young farmers and ranchers residing in each of the four states served by FCSAmerica, based on Department of Census data. The 400 interviews represent the total population with a plus or minus 5% margin of data error at the 95% confidence level.
Across the four-state region, 60% of the respondents were full-time farmers who've been involved in the business an average of 9.8 years. Half the respondents were 31 to 35 years old, 30% were 30 or younger and 19% were 36 to 40.
Family ties were cited as the primary reason for involvement in farming by 43% of those polled, while another 38% said the reason was their "passion for this kind of work." Only 5% said they became farmers or ranchers because they saw an opportunity for financial gain.
The poll participants are highly educated, as 76% have at least some post-secondary education, including 45% who are college graduates. Most work with landlords. Only 17% own all the acres they farm, while 33% rent all their land.
What do they see as "biggest" issues?
As top-of-mind challenges to their long-term success, no one or two global or national issues reached any level of "hot-button" status among those surveyed. Low commodity prices and high and rising input costs are the two day-to-day issues that most concern young and beginning producers.
Poll respondents also were asked to rank a series of 26 different issues as to the level of concern they cause. Continually increasing costs for inputs, including energy, is the top-ranked issue.
Six other challenges rank close behind â€“ the rise of nonfarming land investors, inability of farming to provide an adequate one-job income, competition with large producers, affordable health insurance, access to farmland and increasing taxes.
Four issues landed at the bottom of the ranking. Young and beginning farmers says they're unconcerned about inadequate family financial assistance, access to capital or credit, lending practices or the need for greater production expertise.
A report summarizing results of the 2005 Young & Beginning Producers Poll is available on the FCSAmerica Web site: www.FCSAmerica.com.