Owner Jo Pendergraph of the Manakintowne Specialty Growers

USDA at Work on the Issue

By the numbers:

Did you know that nearly 40 percent of U.S. farmland is rented or leased? 

The average age of the American farmer is approximately 58 years old, and almost 60 percent of principal landlords are 65 years or older.

This means that agriculture stands to change a lot in the next few years, and that how people currently access farmland could be quite different in the next decade.

USDA is hard at work to help landowners and farmers secure the future of farmland and farmers’ ability to access it.

In 2015, the New and Beginning Farmer Advisory Committee advised USDA on the challenges with land transition. The Committee shared more than 50 ideas, including changes to our programs, areas of needed investment, and suggestions for new solutions to tackle the key issues. 

USDA has been hard at work to evaluate these and other ideas to make sure that we are ready to help support farmers and ranchers as they meet the challenges of healthy farmland access.

Some examples of how we have responded:

  • Enhanced our customer service:
    • Created new customer service capacity through Bridges to Opportunity, so that new and beginning farmers and transitioning landowners find a one-stop-shop for information as they walk in the doors of our USDA offices;
    • Supported new resources for all our field offices across the country with new resources and materials – so that they can serve as a connection point for any customers with questions about land tenure and transition;  
    • In the process of expanding outreach and technical assistance by connecting new and beginning farmers with current or retired farmers, ranchers, and business professionals to provide mentoring, technical and financial assistance; and,
    • Built innovative partnerships to help producers address heir property challenges.
       
  • Supporting farmers and ranchers as they research potential options:
    • Made available information, training tools, and curriculum to help support land access and transition and sharing those tools widely throughout USDA networks; and,
    • Funded work with partners to increase land access and transition information, training tools, and curriculum and support continuing coordination on growth of these materials.
       
  • Making our programs work better, faster:
    • Began a new microloans program to help farmers with the purchase of farmland and operating expenses – expanding access to credit and opportunity;
    • Allowed two additional years of payments on expiring 10- to 15-year Conservation Reserve Program contracts to retiring farmers who sell or lease that land to new farmers;
    • Provided new tools to keep land in agricultural production in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program;
    • Reduced the number of years needed to qualify for the Whole Farm Revenue Protection policy – enabling more beginning farmers and ranchers to qualify;
    • Expanded the availability of farm loans for Indian tribes and members to purchase tribal farmland that has multiple owners (Highly Fractionated Indian Land Loan Program); and,
    • Waived the “control of the land” requirement for Tribal land or unique cases in which a written lease is not customarily used, in order to support stronger access to our conservation and land protection programs.