Farming Demographics

Farmers have been featured in a few recent articles and series in the past few weeks. Iowa Public Radio is featuring Harvest Public Media’s series “My Farm Roots,” with family farmers taking center-stage in the installments. A number of millennials and members of Generation X, like Danelle Myer of Logan, Iowa, are either coming back to their farming roots or exploring a career in farming, often using unconventional operations and methods. A number of the farmers are focused on operating smaller businesses, providing a supply to local consumers and businesses. IPR noted that in Myer’s experience, “it took a bit for some of the local farmers to come around,” but her hard work eventually brought respect from her neighbors. Check out all of the installments at Harvest Public Media.

Despite these great stories, younger farmers remain the minority in America. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, “From Vermont and Michigan to Texas and California, the nation’s long-standing pool of farm labor is graying.” They note that the average age of workers is 37 now, compared to 31 in 2000. A main reason for this aging is that “net migration from Mexico, which has long supplied the bulk of U.S. field workers, has come to a standstill . . . .” The Senate recently passed their immigration reform bill, which created an expedited path to legal residency for many undocumented field workers, as well as created two types of agricultural guest-worker visas. The House of Representatives, however, has yet to pass the comprehensive bill, and many Republican members, most prominently Iowa Congressman Steve King, have significant disagreements with the version passed by the Senate. No one would be shocked if the disagreements ended up delaying new legislation until after the mid-term elections next year.

Next week, we will blog about some of the important demographic changes we are seeing in our own farming community and touch upon some of the key issues to consider when the family farm is being passed down to a new generation.

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