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Latest from Young Farmers

RELEASE: New Census of Agriculture reveals more young and beginning farmers, but less farmland and fewer small farms

Contact: Jessica Manly, Communications Director

National Young Farmers Coalition, 518-643-3564 x 722

(Washington, D.C., February 16, 2024) On Tuesday, February 13, 2024, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the results of the 2022 Census of Agriculture. The Census, conducted every five years, is a count of our nation’s farms and ranches and the people who run them, and provides a new outlook on the future of farming in the United States.

The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is pleased to see a significant increase in young producers in the 2022 data. There was a 7% increase in farmers under 44 with the largest jump being in the youngest producers, under 25 years of age. However, the farming population is still aging, with farmers 65 and older making up over 40% of total farmers. The average age of a U.S. farmer is now 58.1 years old. 

It is also encouraging to see there was an over 10% increase in beginning farmers since 2017, though most of that increase was in farmers with 6-10 years of farming experience, so there was little growth in new farmers entering the industry since the last Census. Enterprising young people face an uphill battle in establishing themselves in agriculture, given prohibitive land prices, student loan debt, and limited health care options. Our federal farm policy must do more to address these barriers to entry and support our next generation of farmers and ranchers.

The Census reports 880 million acres of privately held farmland in the U.S., down from 900 million in 2017. This is a loss of 20 million acres or 2.2% of total farmland. “That’s the biggest drop, both percentage and acreage-wise, that we have seen between Census reports in the past twenty-five years,” said Holly Rippon-Butler, Land Policy Director for Young Farmers. “The number of farms has again decreased, while the average size of farms has continued to creep upward. At the same time that we are losing farmland, the remaining farms are continuing to consolidate and get larger.”

“This survey is a wake-up call. It’s essentially asking the critical question of whether as a country, we are okay with losing that many farms, okay with losing that much farmland? Or is there a better way?” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack commented while releasing the new Census data at a USDA livestream event on Tuesday.

The 2022 Census data underline the urgency of the National Young Farmers Coalition’s mission. “We are concerned with the decline in small farms (1-9 acres) by over 14%, as small farms function as important incubators for young farmers’ business potential and market access. Overall, farms of less than 180 acres made up almost 70% of all the farms in the country, telling us that smaller farms are really the ones feeding our communities. USDA programs should be tailored to serve small- and mid-sized farms for better customer service and program deliverables,” said Vanessa García Polanco, Government Relations Director at Young Farmers.

“Today’s Census of Agriculture Report underscores that it’s imperative that we continue to deliver agriculture policies that create multiple streams of income and new, more competitive models for small- and mid-sized farms.” said Secretary Vilsack.

The 2022 Census of Agriculture data show a slight overall decrease in farmers of color, with an 8.1% decrease in Black farmers and a 3.4% decrease in Indigenous farmers. “We’re disappointed to see a continued decrease in the number of Black and Indigenous farmers, as we strive to restore the racial diversity of the agriculture industry through the next generation. The data clearly demonstrate a need for an intentional focus on land access in the upcoming Farm Bill, and we will continue to push Congress to do so through our marker bills. Without a sustained focus on equitable agricultural policy implementation, we will continue to witness the obvious and dramatic gaps between the measures of success for farmers of color and white farmers highlighted in this report.” said Michelle Hughes, Co-Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition.

In light of the insights from the 2022 Census of Agriculture, it is clear that the path forward for agriculture must be paved with policies that not only acknowledge but actively address, the multifaceted challenges faced by today’s farmers. From the underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) farmers, to the aging farmer population to the decline in small farms, and the barriers to entry for new producers, each issue underscores the critical need for comprehensive agricultural policy reform.

The National Young Farmers Coalition is committed to advocating for a future where agriculture is inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. As we continue working on this Farm Bill and beyond, our focus will remain steadfast on ensuring that beginning farmers, regardless of their background or the size of their operation, have the support they need to thrive. This includes pushing for equitable land access, addressing the climate crisis, ensuring affordability and accessibility of USDA resources, and championing policies that recognize and rectify historical injustices in our agricultural system. Only by embracing these changes can we hope to foster a resilient food system that supports both our farmers and the communities they serve. Together, we can cultivate a future that honors the legacy of those who have farmed before us while laying the groundwork for a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable agricultural landscape for generations to come.


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