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U. S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan visited New Mexico recently to encourage students to think about careers in agriculture.
New Mexico has the nation’s highest average age for farmers and ranchers, at nearly 60, and the rest of the country looks similar. Among farmers and ranchers, the over- 65 crowd is the fastest growing group, says the U.S. Census.
The USDA has programs to help young farmers and ranchers, but the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau has said the red tape is a barrier. The National Young Farmers’ Coalition is pushing for training, access to financing and credit, student loan forgiveness for new farmers, and tax breaks for selling land to young farmers.
I once interviewed a young guy whose dream was to be a rancher, but if you’re not born into ranching or have a pot of money from some other endeavor, the barrier to entry is quite high.
He had begun with 20 acres, worked for a livestock auction, and planned to bootstrap.
Any more, it takes a pot of money just for farmers, ranchers, and dairies to stay in business. Drought, market prices, rising costs. Even if the younger generation wants to keep the family land, they have to think long and hard.
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