Beginning Farmer & Rancher

Calling all beginning farmers and ranchers! America’s farmers and ranchers are aging, and it's prime time for a new generation. It can be hard for new farmers to get started, but there’s help. Check out our resources and land linking program for ways to take advantage of exciting new opportunities.

Background | New Farmer Finances | Land Matching Programs

Anyone with interest can become a new farmer - there is no age limit on pursuing an interest in farming or ranching. At the Center for Rural Affairs, we have resources to help new farmers become successful and profitable while they carry on the proud tradition of family farms and vibrant rural communities.

Learn more about opportunities and challenges for beginning farmers, including special programs for veterans and women getting started in farming. Keep reading below, then check out the rest of our beginning farmer pages.

Learn about the Conservation Reserve Program - Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) in our 2017 report, “Pathways to Land Access.” We examine implementation and participation in the program in Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.


America's Aging Farm Population

Right now, the American farming population is aging, and new farmers aren’t getting in:

  • Half of all current farmers likely to retire in the next decade
  • Farmers over age 55 control more than half of U.S. farmland
  • Number of entry-level farmers has fallen by 30% since 1987
  • New farmers make up only 10 percent of farmers and ranchers

What happens when these aging farmers and ranchers are no longer working the land? Their lands concentrates in bigger and bigger and bigger operations, and we lose our family farms and ranches and our rural communities.


What makes it hard for beginners? Several factors make it difficult for new farmers and ranchers to get started and become profitable:

  • Limited access to land
  • High cost of land, especially large parcels needed for conventional production systems
  • High cost of production technologies
  • Small scale of operations unsuited to conventional production systems and markets
  • Limited resources, financing opportunities, and financing eligibility
  • Increasing demand for business skills

Given these challenges, new farmers have different needs than established farmers and ranchers. Many Center for Rural Affairs programs address these unique needs. Navigate through the Beginning Farmer Resources to learn more about how our work can help you.

The Center staff has extensive experience advocating for beginning farmers with policy makers.


Smart Financial Planning for Beginners

Before seeking outside financing, beginning farmers and ranchers need to do some basic financial and business planning. Click here to learn more.


Land Matching Programs

Farmer and rancher matching programs connect new farmers with retiring landowners. When the new and retiring generation match up, they can work out mutually beneficial arrangements to transfer ownership while maintaining a small farm’s legacy and promoting good stewardship.

To learn more about how linking programs work, how they benefit those involved, and how they help secure the future of small family farms, click here.

The Center for Rural Affairs’ was the first to match new farmers with retiring farmers and landowners. So many exist now that we retired our Land Link program in early 2015. Additional land matching programs are available throughout the country and the world.

Linking farmers and ranchers can make working arrangements and ownership transfer strategies that benefit both parties. Case studies are available.

Beginning Farmer & Rancher Notes

 

Saluting Service: A Guide to Lending and Farm Program Resources for Veterans

With the average age of a farmer at nearly 60 years, and millions of acres expected to change hands over the next few years, many Americans are thinking about who the next generation of producers will be.

Investment in the next generation of producers is garnering attention with key congressional leaders who participate in the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and the Secretary of Agriculture. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the farm bill, included many program changes that were targeted to improve access to farm programs for beginning, socially-disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers. Despite these policy advances, many producers face barriers that impede their ability to start or maintain successful farming operations.

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Beginning Farmer Tax Credit benefits new and retiring farmers

Ask any beginning farmer or rancher about the greatest challenge to starting an operation, and the most common answer is access to land and operational assets.

A program bringing together asset owners and new farmers aims to lessen those barriers.

Through Nebraska’s Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act, administered under the NextGen program title, asset owners can earn state income tax credit each year, for three years, when they rent land or agriculture assets to approved beginning farmers.

Determinación en Nebraska - Familias Latinas con la ayuda del Centro vadean recursos de inundación

Antes de las inundaciones de la primavera en Fremont, Nebraska, la pequeña empresa agrícola de Hilda Moreno estaba prosperando.

Su hijo mayor Carlos es dueño de un negocio próspero de huevos, y tiene una lista de clientes en espera para sus huevos orgánicos. Sus planes es de añadir pollos de engorde a su negocio de huevos.  Carlos siempre está analizando maneras de ampliar y desarrollar su negocio,como la venta de huevos de ganso y patos.

Nebraska strong: Latino families wade through flooding resources with the help of Center staff

Before this spring’s flooding in Fremont, Nebraska, Hilda Moreno’s small family farm business was thriving. 

Her 13-year-old son, Carlos, owns an egg business where he had customers on a waiting list because the business was booming. His plans were to add broiler chickens to his existing enterprise. Carlos, who is always thinking of ways to diversify, such as selling goose and duck eggs, was eager to grow his business.