Profitability, increasing government regulations and the impact of activist groups are the top concerns of America’s leading young farmers and ranchers, according to a national survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Despite the challenges, 80 percent of those responding to AFBF’s 18th annual survey of young farmers and ranchers say they are more optimistic than they were five years ago, while 82 percent say they are better off than they were five years ago.
The informal survey shows young farmers and ranchers have a high level of apprehension about government climate change regulations, with 79 percent of those surveyed expressing high or very high concern.
“I think all young farmers and ranchers in Montana are watching the current climate change discussion in Washington,” notes Montana Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Chair Peter Taylor. “It has the potential to add another major hurdle to our operations. Input cost have skyrocketed in the last few years. Any regulations that have the potential to make those cost, i.e. fuel, fertilizer and equipment, increase even more is of major concern to our longevity as farmers and ranchers. “
A huge majority of those surveyed expressed concern about the impact of anti-animal agriculture activist groups on their farm and ranch operations. A total of 85 percent were concerned or very concerned about activist groups. Only 7 percent expressed little or no concern.
“From my point of view activist groups are emerging as the single biggest threat to agriculture in the United States. The budgets behind many of these organizations are by any standards enormous,” explains Taylor, who ranches in Kirby, Montana. “A lot of people do not realize is that with those huge budgets they are not only hoping to change public opinion about agriculture but they want to adopt legislation that aims at putting us out of business.”
Taylor goes on to say that everyone interested in helping agriculture needs to be vocal, both in their communities and on the internet. The survey shows the Internet is an important tool for young farmers and ranchers. Nearly 99 percent said they have access to and use the Internet, with the vast majority, 72 percent, saying they have access to a high-speed Internet connection. Only 20 percent rely on slower dial-up connections and 8 percent turn to more costly satellite connections.
The social media site Facebook is very popular with young farmers and ranchers. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed have a Facebook page. Ten percent of the young farmers say they use the micro-blogging Web site Twitter, while about 12 percent say they post YouTube videos.
“The digital age means that anti-agriculture organizations can distribute information at the click of a button. With a few clicks they can spread false information around the internet with ease,” Taylor explains. “The best way we can combat this is to get connected. Open a Facebook or Twitter account, and start telling your friends the truth about what we do for a living. Don’t be afraid to go on these organization’s Web sites and see what they are saying about modern farmers and ranchers and how we care for our animals and our ground. I think a lot of farmers/ranchers feel if we go to an anti-agriculture Web site to see what information is being presented we are somehow giving that organization credibility. The truth is that every day that we don’t know what is being said and respond accordingly we are letting them gain credibility they do not deserve. As young farmers and ranchers we need to pledge at least a little bit of our time every week to letting our voices be heard on social networking sites and digital media. “
Respondents were asked to rank their top three challenges, and 24 percent ranked overall profitability as the top, followed by government regulations at 23 percent. Two other concerns tied for third on that list, with competition from more established farms and ranches, and willingness of parents to share management responsibilities each receiving 9 percent.
When it comes to what steps the federal government can take to help farmers and ranchers, 23 percent ranked cut federal spending as number one. Boosting U.S. agricultural exports ranked second, selected by 14 percent of respondents. Providing greater help to beginning farmers was third at 11 percent.
A sizable majority, 83 percent, said they believe farm income should come totally from the marketplace, while only 17 percent said farm income should be supplemented by government farm program payments.
Young farmers and ranchers are committed environmental stewards, with 68 percent saying that balancing environmental and economic concerns is important for their operations. The survey says 58 percent used conservation tillage on their farms.
The majority of those surveyed, 57 percent, plan to plant biotech crops this year, while 43 percent said they do not plan to do so.
The survey reveals the group’s strong commitment to agriculture, with 96 percent saying they consider themselves life-long farmers or ranchers. They express hope for the next generation, with 98 percent saying they would like to see their children follow in their footsteps; 85 percent believe their children will be able to follow in their footsteps.
“Working with family and passing a family farm or ranch from generation to generation is one of the most challenging and yet rewarding things we can do as a young farmers and ranchers,” says Taylor. “It is vital for us as young farmers and ranchers to remember that Rome was not built in a day. It takes years even decades to build the knowledge to be truly successful at farming and ranching. We need to remember to take the time to learn from the generations that preceded us while not losing our exuberance to change and adapt for the future.”
Source: MT Farm Bureau
Posted by Kaci Switzer