Farm Credit discussed “The Rise of Rural America: What’s on the Horizon” during a learning session at Commodity Classic in Anaheim.
At a time when the rural footprint is shrinking based on growing urban and suburban population centers, farmers and the business people who support them may need new strategies to stay politically engaged. The lack of available broadband connectivity across rural America continues to be a serious challenge.
But contrary to popular belief, there is a new generation of farmers setting out to make a living in production agriculture, and there is reason for optimism, according to Gary Matteson, Vice President of Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach for the Farm Credit Council.
“I’d like to think that rural entrepreneur is the new name for a beginning farmer,” said Matteson. “I would expect, statistically speaking, looking at what farmers do and off-farm income, that beginning farmers that are starting now are going to have an ag production career, and over the course of their career they’re going to own two or three other businesses that are non-farm businesses that are part of using their skills that they learn through farming – their financial skills, their business analysis skills – and be able to use that in creating rural wealth.”
Matteson said according to the most recent USDA Ag Census, a quarter of all farms have a beginning farmer on them. And while the average age of the primary farm operator continues to rise, adding in secondary and tertiary operators will lower that average age significantly. He said in addition to broadband connectivity, important challenges faced by beginning farmers include finding and seeking out new markets in order to diversify risk.