Farming is Public Service

This report makes a case for adding farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. A survey of over 700 young farmers found that 30% of respondents delayed or declined to enter agriculture because of their student loans, while an additional 48% said student loans prevented them from growing their businesses or obtaining credit to invest in their farms.

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With thousands of American farmers nearing retirement (the average age of farmers is now over 58), the U.S. needs at least 100,000 new farmers over the next two decades. This issue reaches beyond the farm and impacts rural economies because farmers are often the primary revenue generators and employers in rural areas.

Over 700 young farmers (a traditionally under-reported group) were surveyed for NYFC’s “Farming Is Public Service” survey. The survey also comprises data compiled from the USDA Census of Agriculture. Highlights include:

    • Only 6% of all U.S. farmers are under the age of 35. Between 2007 and 2012 America gained only 1,220 principal farm operators under 35. During the same period, the total number of principal farm operators dropped by more than 95,000.
    • Survey respondents carried an average of $35,000 in student loans.
    • 30% of survey respondents said their student loans are delaying or preventing them from farming.
    • 28% of survey respondents say student loan pressure has prevented them from growing their business, and 20% of respondents report being unable to obtain credit because of their student loans.

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Learn more about NYFC’s ongoing student loan campaign here.


Sophie Ackoff, Evan Flom, Vanessa García Polanco, David Howard, Jessica Manly, Carolina Mueller, Holly Rippon-Butler, Lytisha Wyatt


National Young Farmers Coalition

Date Published

June 9, 2015

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