Legislation Aims to Help Young Farmers

By: Morgan Demmel Email
By: Morgan Demmel Email

Many Nebraska farms are family operations, with grown kids returning home to take over the business. But young people interested in farming who don't have those family ties are going up against much tougher circumstances.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry proposed legislation that would provide practical incentives to encourage young people to pursue careers in farming.

Zach Hunnicutt, a farmer near Giltner, says he expects agriculture to continue to be a long term leader in the economy for the next 40-50 years.

"Looking at the long term growth potential for farming, it's a growing population around the world, and we've got to keep feeding everybody," Hunnicutt says.

But in a state where agriculture is such a strong contributor to the economy already, local farmers say there's no shortage of people interested in agriculture just yet.

"We really do have quite a few young farmers around here, even just within a few miles of here," Hunnicutt says.

But he says it's best to stay ahead of the curve with initiatives like this one.

"Instead of waiting until the farm economy slows down a little bit, and times are getting tougher and then trying to react to it, I think this sounds like a good step to get out in front of it and keep the ball rolling," Hunnicutt says.

But for young people who don't have a family farm to start out on, agricultural entrepreneurship can seem nearly impossible.

Todd Mader joined his family farm near Grand Island full-time about six years ago. He says starting a farming business requires a lot of capital, which most new college graduates wouldn't be able to get on their own.

"Even if you were to rent 300-400 acres as a beginning farmer, you'd have to have at least a tractor and that's going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars with all the equipment you're going to need," Mader says.

"That's not to mention all the start up, your seed, your fertilizers. You'd have to be very ambitious, and be a very big risk taker," Mader says.

Fortenberry's proposed legislation would try to alleviate some of those financial burdens. Similar legislation will also be introduced in the Senate in the next few weeks.

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