PROMO 64J1 Agriculture - Center Pivot Fields Irrigation Green Farm - flickrcc - USGS - public domain

Congress aims to remove land access barriers for young farmers 

© flickrcc - USGS
Kathryn Carley

(Maine News Service) New bipartisan legislation in Congress aims to fix the number one challenge facing the next generation of American farmers - access to land. 

The Increasing Land Access, Security and Opportunities Act in the U.S. House would authorize $100 million over ten years to help beginning farmers gain access to the credit needed to purchase farmland. 

Holly Rippon-Butler, land policy director of the Young Farmers Coalition, said it would be a historic investment.

"This next generation really needs help," said Rippon-Butler, "because it's really difficult to break into this field and to have enough money to compete with non-farming buyers."

Rippon-Butler said close to 40 percent of farmland in the U.S. is expected to change ownership in the next few decades, and that federal aid is needed to ensure that land remains in agriculture. 

Which, in turn, ensures a stable food supply and greater economic stability in rural areas.

A national survey of young American farmers found 75 percent of them do not have a farming background. 

Rippon-Butler said many Black and Indigenous farmers in particular struggle with systemic barriers to getting loans or capital to purchase farmland. 

She said the legislation helps ensure historically underserved communities have a fair shot.

"We feel it's incredibly important for our country and our federal government to take a stand," said Rippon-Butler, "and say, 'What we want is to support people who are going to grow their food, who are putting roots down in communities, and we want to make sure it's done equitably.'"

Rippon-Butler said improving access to land is just one important piece of the 2023 Farm Bill needed to ensure young farmers can be successful. 

She said other bills aim to fund more conservation practices, climate-change resilience, and mental-health services for those working hard to keep the nation fed.