WASHINGTON — Securing adequate land to grow crops and raise
livestock was the top challenge identified in the latest survey of participants
in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers program.
That challenge was identified by 20 percent of respondents,
followed by burdensome government regulations and “red tape,” which was
identified by15 percent of the young farmers and ranchers responding.
“Access to adequate land to begin farming or expand an
established operation is a major concern for today’s young farmers,” said Zach
Hunnicutt, AFBF’s national Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee chair and a crop
farmer from Nebraska.
“Another major challenge we all face in one form or another
is the cost of complying with a maze of government regulations.”
Other issues ranked as top concerns included economic
challenges, particularly profitability, 12 percent; water availability, 10
percent; taxes, 9 percent; health care availability and cost, 9 percent;
availability of farm labor and related regulations, 8 percent; and willingness
of parents to turn over the reins of the farm or ranch, 7 percent.
When asked to name the top three steps the federal
government should take to help young farmers and ranchers, cutting government
spending was the top response, with 24 percent listing this as most important.
Twelve percent of those surveyed said maintaining the farm safety net was most
important, while financial assistance for beginning farmers and tax reform were
each cited by 11 percent as the priority that should be first on the list.
The 21st annual Young Farmers and Ranchers survey revealed
that 90 percent of those surveyed are more optimistic about farming and ranching
than they were five years ago. Last year, 94 percent of those surveyed said they
were more optimistic about farming than they were five years ago.
The 2013 survey also showed that 83 percent of the nation’s
young farmers and ranchers think they are better off than they were five years
ago. Last year, 94 percent reported being better off.
More than 94 percent considered themselves lifetime farmers,
while 90 percent would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. The
informal survey reveals that 84 percent believe their children will be able to
follow in their footsteps.
The survey points out that 64 percent of Young Farmers and
Ranchers members consider communicating with consumers a formal part of their
jobs. Many use social media platforms as a tool to accomplish this.
The popular social media site Facebook is used by 82 percent
of those surveyed who use the Internet. Thirty percent of respondents said they
use the social networking site Twitter, and 18 percent use YouTube to post
videos of their farms and ranches.
“Use of technology to improve production practices on the
farm and to interact with consumers — our customers — continues to grow,”
“Having instant access to information and communication
tools is the ‘new normal’ and that’s not going to change.”
Nearly 80 percent of young farmers and ranchers surveyed
said they regularly use mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to
communicate. That’s up from 66 percent last year.
Computers and the Internet remain vital tools for the
nation’s young farmers and ranchers, with 92 percent surveyed reporting using a
computer in their farming operation.
Nearly all of those surveyed, 94 percent, have access to the
Internet. High-speed Internet is used by 65 percent of those surveyed, with 22
percent relying on a satellite connection and just over 2 percent turning to
The survey also shows that America’s young farmers and
ranchers are committed environmental caretakers, with 64 percent using
conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.
AFBF President Bob Stallman said the annual Young Farmers
and Ranchers survey underscores his belief that the future of U.S. agriculture
is in good hands.
“The future looks bright for American agriculture and our
nation as a whole, thanks to the commitment and solid knowledge base held by
today’s young farmers and ranchers,” Stallman said.
The informal survey of young farmers and ranchers, ages 18
to 35, was conducted during the AFBF’s 2013 Young Farmers and Ranchers
Leadership Conference in Phoenix in February.
The purpose of the Young Farmers and Ranchers program is to
help younger members learn more about farming and ranching, network with other
farmers and strengthen their leadership skills to assist in the growth of
agriculture and Farm Bureau.