Science, technology, and medicine have made some pretty amazing advances over the last few decades. Unfortunately, we still do not have the ability to live forever. While that is something that human beings simply have to come to terms with, it might spell serious trouble for our future food supply.
Continuing a trend that has spanned over 30 years, the average age of the United States farmer continues to increase. Based on the latest Department of Agriculture data available, the average age of a farmer in the United States is just over 58 years old. Only 6 percent of farmers are age 35 or younger. Perhaps even more alarming is that the number of new farmers who had been on their current operation for less than 10 years was down 20 percent between 2007 and 2012. That means that our farming population is getting older, and new farmers are struggling to stick around.
To combat the problem, an Indiana state legislator recently proposed a bill that would require high schools in the state to offer an agriculture class for high school students. While there is no telling whether the bill will eventually make it into law, especially because it ties overall school performance to offering the class, State Rep. Melanie Wright thought it was at least worth getting the conversation about our aging farmers started.
While I appreciate the merit of teaching high school students basic skills related to agriculture, the proposal for such a class probably is not enough to address the aging farm population. So, why exactly is it so hard for new farmers to enter into agriculture? Here’s are three key reasons.
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[This article was originally published on AGDAILY as a guest column.]