Young Farmers Emphasize Numerous Barriers to Entry
WASHINGTON – Today, the House Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship heard from a panel of farmers and experts on the challenges facing the next generation of small agricultural businesses.
“Communities in my district and across the country rely on 2.2 million farms in the United States. Of these, 88 percent are small, and only 20 percent are operated by new and beginning farmers and ranchers,” said Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN), Acting Ranking Member. “With a projected global population of 9.7 billion by the year 2050, the world’s farmers will need to grow approximately 70 percent more food in order to feed the world… We want to make sure we keep those generational farms in business.”
Access to Capital Hinders Young Farmers
The witnesses described how requirements for federal loans, training programs, and farmland access have prevented them from fully realizing their career in agriculture.
Mr. Matthew Keesling, Farm Manager, Bures’ Organic Family Farm, in Deerbrook, WI described how his years of service in the U.S. Army were not considered adequate for various federal farming programs. Mr. Keesling said, “Even though I had taken these steps and the business plan was solid, I did not have enough education in agriculture… Even after graduation from the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, I would not [meet the requirement for experience].”
“Federal loan and grant programs, especially the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Micro Loan Program and [its] Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program, have been critical to my professional development and success,” said Mr. Jason Grimm, Owner, Grimm Family Farm, in Williamsburg, IA. However, Mr. Grimm added that financial burdens prevented him from buying land from his family, saying, “My grandparents… are hesitant to sell the land because of financial advice warning them about high capital gains taxes.”
“Without any financial cushion or inheritance, the chances of me quitting my engineering job to pursue farming full-time at this point [are] pretty slim,” said Ms. Meri Lillia Mullins, Farm Manager, Lighthearted Ranch, in Longmont, CO.
Mr. Rodney Hebrink, President & CEO, Compeer Financial, in Lakeville, MN offered stories of farmers who were unable to take advantage of Small Business Administration (SBA) and USDA programs due to high costs and limited collateral. “We’re asking you to address some of the barriers: high fees, difficult requirements, and time-consuming processes,” said Mr. Hebrink.