On Monday, farmer Emily Best was invited to testify at a Congressional hearing about the impact her student loan debt has on her ability to farm. As almost one million student borrowers prepare to receive their first student loan bills in November, United States Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) held a forum with college graduates and experts to discuss college affordability and the student debt crisis. They were joined at the forum by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
You can watch the full hearing here. Emily’s begins speaking at minute 33.
Here is an excerpt from Emily’s testimony:
I am an apprentice farmer at New Morning Farm, an organic vegetable farm located in south-central Pennsylvania. My student loans are one of the biggest barriers standing between me and starting my own farm. My student loan debt, combined with my low income typical of beginning farmers, prevent me from accessing the lines of credit I would need to start my own farm.
Starting a new farm is an expensive and risky endeavor. A farmer needs secure land tenure, equipment, seeds, and other capital intensive investments. I’d likely need an operating loan to cover these expenses until my crop grows. Only Farm Credit and USDA’s Farm Service Agency will loan to new farmers. But my negative net wealth essentially forecloses the option of Farm Credit, and the FSA will only loan as much as a farmer can afford to pay back each month. Student loan payments are income that cannot be leveraged for the necessary farm loan.
I’ve considered switching jobs just to pay off my loans, but I believe strongly in the value of my work, and so do my customers. Thousands of other young people are facing the same choice I am. They also must decide whether student loans are an unbearable burden on a career in farming. I’m worried that too many of them will leave farming as a result.
Emily did an amazing job explaining why our nation needs to go to bat for young farmers. Now she needs your help. Tell Congress you stand behind farmers like Emily and ask your Representative to support the Young Farmer Success Act: