What are the greatest concerns for young farmers? According to the American Farm Bureau's latest survey of participants in the Young Farmers and Ranchers program, there are several issues.
When asked about their top concern, 29% of young farmers identified accessing adequate land to grow crops and raise livestock, followed by government regulations, which was identified by 13% of the respondents.
Other issues ranked as top concerns by young farmers and ranchers included the willingness of parents to turn over the reins, 10%; overall profitability, 10%; taxes and the availability of water, both 7%; and urbanization and the availability of ag financing, each coming in at 5%.
The 23rd annual YF&R survey revealed that 84% of those surveyed are more optimistic about farming and ranching than they were five years ago. Last year, 91% of those surveyed said they were more optimistic about farming compared to five years ago.
The 2015 survey also shows 92% of the nation's young farmers and ranchers say they are better off than they were five years ago. Last year, 93% reported being better off.
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Ninety-one percent of respondents considered themselves lifetime farmers, while 97% would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. The informal survey reveals that 88% believe their children will be able to follow in their footsteps.
The survey also shows that 58% of young farmers and ranchers are active caretakers of the land, analyzing the nutrient content of soil, and 56% using conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.
The majority of those surveyed – 75% – 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.
Facebook is used by 74% of those surveyed. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they use the social networking site Twitter, 19% have a farm blog or webpage and 14% use YouTube to post videos of their farms and ranches.
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High-speed Internet is used by 74% of those surveyed, with 23% relying on a satellite connection and fewer than 3% turning to dialup.
"Use of social media platforms to interact with consumers – our customers – continues to grow and will help young farmers be successful," Jon Hegeman, AFBF's national YF&R Committee chair and a farmer from Alabama, said.
Building a rural or farm business
Again this year the young farmers and ranchers were asked about their rural entrepreneurship efforts, with 45% 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 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.