RELEASE: 2022 National Young Farmer Survey Reveals a Generation Defying The Odds


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Young farmers and farmers of color across the country are facing major systemic barriers—access to land, capital, health care, affordable housing, mounting student debt.

National Young Farmers Coalition releases report on survey findings; calls on lawmakers to support the 2022 Young Farmer Agenda as Congress writes a new farm bill.

Contact:​ Jessica Manly, Communications Director, National Young Farmers Coalition
press@youngfarmers.org, 518-643-3564 ext. 722

Washington, D.C. (September 1, 2022) The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) has released the results of its nationwide survey of the next generation of farmers and ranchers, conducted to identify the major barriers to their success in agriculture and the brightest opportunities to support their efforts through policy change. The largest survey of its kind, the 2022 National Young Farmer Survey collected over 10,000 responses from farmers across the country.

The findings, summarized in the report Building a Future with Farmers 2022: Results and Recommendations from the 2022 National Young Farmer Survey, reveal the urgent structural challenges standing in the way of young farmer success, including access to land, capital, health care, housing, the increasing impacts of the climate crisis, and mounting student loan debt. With the average U.S. farmer approaching 60 years old, Young Farmers calls on Congress to pass a 2023 Farm Bill that supports the next generation of young and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) farmers and farmworkers to carry our nation’s food systems forward.

“Young farmers, and particularly BIPOC farmers, are facing significant structural barriers that stand in the way of launching and building successful careers in agriculture. This survey reveals the daunting challenges they face—land access, climate impacts, systemic racism—but also the creative and powerful solutions they are putting into place in their communities,” said Vanessa Garcia Polanco, Policy Campaigns Co-Director. “As policymakers sit down to write the 2023 Farm Bill, I hope they pay attention to these survey findings. The next generation in agriculture needs federal policy support to keep growing healthy food for their communities through a pandemic, and to access the land, water, and other essentials they need to survive in this challenging industry.”
The 2022 National Young Farmer Survey finds that, once again, the top challenge cited by young farmers is land access—and this barrier is increasing: 59% of young farmers named finding affordable land to buy as very or extremely challenging, an increase from the 39% who cited it as a significant challenge in 2017. Land access is also the top reason why farmers stopped farming and the biggest obstacle standing in the way of aspiring farmers.

With nearly half of U.S. farmland on the brink of changing ownership over the next two decades, immediate action is required to transition this land to the next generation. Young Farmers launched the One Million Acres for the Future Campaign to call on Congress to invest $2.5 billion in the 2023 Farm Bill to facilitate equitable access to one million acres of land for the next generation of farmers.

A ground-breaking survey of young and BIPOC farmers and ranchers

Young farmers surveyed were highly educated, increasingly racially diverse, LGBTQIA+, and 78% were first generation (not from farming families). The USDA does not collect comprehensive data on farmers’ sexual orientation and gender, so this survey is the largest of its kind to reveal that 63.5% of young farmers surveyed identify as female, nonbinary, or a gender other than cisgender male, and 24.2% of young farmers identify as a sexuality other than heterosexual.

Young farmers are motivated by environmental conservation, anti-racism, and social justice. The Coalition found that young farmers surveyed are capitalizing on the demand for local food by selling directly to consumers and growing a diversity of crops and livestock. The survey also indicates a generation of producers strongly committed to environmental stewardship, with 86% of young farmers identifying their practices as regenerative and 83% saying one of their farm’s primary purposes for existing is to engage in conservation or regeneration. And 74% of Black farmers said, “one of their farm’s primary purposes is anti-racism work, or promoting healing from White Supremacy.”
How lawmakers can help young and BIPOC farmers

Considering these findings, the Coalition calls on lawmakers to enact a slate of policy reforms it calls the “2022 Young Farmer Agenda,” including:

  • Improve access to land and capital for young and BIPOC farmers;
  • Support farmer mental health and well-being;
  • Address cost of production and market access challenges;
  • Increase access to affordable housing;
  • Invest in climate action and water access;
  • Reform laws and regulations to support farm and food system workers; and
  • Improve USDA access and accountability

“The results of this survey, and the related policy recommendations we are sharing today, are an invitation to Congress to continue working with us, and to lean in hard to build a more equitable food system with young, creative, innovative farmers in the lead,” said David Howard, Policy Campaigns Co-Director. “Policy recommendations from our last two surveys, together with ideas and efforts from many other advocates, have led to powerful reforms in the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills, including new loan programs and historic funding for beginning farmer training and outreach to farmers of color. We are ready to work across the aisle to deliver material benefits responsive to the needs of young and BIPOC farmers in this country.”

Young Farmers calls on supporters to act now: Become a member and sign up for our 2023 Farm Bill Action Network. Add your voice to the young farmer movement to ensure that the next farm bill better serves the next generation of farmers and farmworkers.

Young Farmers partnered with over 100 organizations around the country to design and collect results for the Survey, with a focus on geographic and racial equity in its outreach. In particular, the Coalition resourced and worked closely with La Semilla, the Midwest Farmers of Color Collective, and the Land Stewardship Project. This work would not have been possible without the generous support of General Mills, Niman Ranch, Applegate, sweetgreen, and Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation; or without the in-kind support for our participant raffle from Chipotle, Avocado Green Mattress, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Carhartt, the Original Muck Boot Company, Stonyfield, Patagonia, and Patagonia Provisions.

The full survey, including the executive summary, charts, and policy recommendations are available at www.youngfarmers.org/22survey. Graphics are available here.

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MEDIA: Interviews with National Young Farmers Coalition staff, young farmers, and other issue area experts are available upon request. Please contact press@youngfarmers.org.

 

The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is a grassroots network changing policy and shifting power to equitably resource the new generation of working farmers. 

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