Finding and securing adequate land to grow crops and raise animals was once again the top challenge identified in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual outlook survey of participants in the Young Farmers & Ranchers program. That challenge was identified by 29 percent of respondents, followed by government regulations, which was identified by 13 percent of the respondents.
“For young people who want to begin farming or ranching or expand an established farm or ranch, securing adequate land remains their top challenge,” said Jon Hegeman, AFBF’s national YF&R Committee chair and a farmer from Alabama. “Another major challenge is coping with burdensome government regulations.”
Other issues ranked as top concerns by young farmers and ranchers included the willingness of parents to turn over the reins, 10 percent; overall profitability, 10 percent; taxes and the availability of water, both 7 percent; and urbanization and the availability of ag financing, each coming in at 5 percent.
The 23rd annual YF&R survey revealed that 84 percent of those surveyed are more optimistic about farming and ranching than they were five years ago. Last year, 91 percent of those surveyed said they were more optimistic about farming compared to five years ago.
The 2015 survey also shows 92 percent of the nation’s young farmers and ranchers say they are better off than they were five years ago. Last year, 93 percent reported being better off.
Ninety-one percent of respondents considered themselves lifetime farmers, while 97 percent would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. The informal survey reveals that 88 percent believe their children will be able to follow in their footsteps.
The majority of those surveyed — 75 percent — consider communicating with consumers a formal part of their jobs. Many use social media platforms as a tool to accomplish this, in addition to traditional outreach methods such as farm tours, agri-tourism and farmers’ markets.
The popular social media site Facebook is used by 74 percent of those surveyed. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they use the social networking site Twitter, 19 percent have a farm blog or webpage and 14 percent use YouTube to post videos of their farms and ranches.
“Use of social media platforms to interact with consumers — our customers — continues to grow and will help young farmers be successful,” Hegeman said.
High-speed Internet is used by 74 percent of those surveyed, with 23 percent relying on a satellite connection and fewer than 3 percent turning to dialup.
Again this year the young farmers and ranchers were asked about their rural entrepreneurship efforts, with 45 percent reporting they had started a new business in the last three years or plan to start one in the near future. Among those respondents, access to start-up funding, help developing business plans and navigating legal issues were identified as areas of greatest concern.
The survey also shows that America’s young farmers and ranchers continue to be committed environmental caretakers, with 58 percent analyzing the nutrient content of soil and 56 percent using conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.
AFBF President Bob Stallman said the results of the YF&R survey show young farmers are optimistic and U.S. agriculture is in very capable hands.
“I am confident that the optimism and dedication of our young farmers and ranchers will ensure that a bright future lies ahead for our country and agriculture,” Stallman said. “They are the hope for the future of American agriculture and food production.”
The informal survey of young farmers and ranchers, ages 18-35, was conducted online in February. The purpose of the YF&R program is to help younger Farm Bureau members learn more about farming and ranching, network with other farmers and strengthen their leadership skills to assist in the growth of agriculture and Farm Bureau.