NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Aging Farmers Prompt Land-link Programs to Youths

August 13, 2002

American farmers are aging and many are approaching retirement. Meanwhile, younger Americans are showing little interest in pursuing agricultural careers. So many states are launching ventures called land-link programs to match aspiring young farmers with established ones.

  • Farmers over age 55 now control more than half of U.S. farmland.
  • At the same time, the number of entry-level farmers stepping in to replace the retiring ones has dropped 30 percent in the last 15 years, according to the Center for Rural Affairs.
  • There are three times as many farmers over age 65 as there are under age 35.
  • State land-link programs have grown to 20 today from just two in 1991.

Land-link programs help young farmers to find financing -- and get young and old to talk about their differences that could threaten a successful transition.

Those who work with the programs explain that older farmers tend to be introverts who are uncomfortable with bringing in someone new they've never dealt with before and watch them take over something they've worked on all their lives. Land-link attempts to smooth out the bumps.

In Iowa, the land-link failure rate is about 15 percent to 20 percent among matches, officials report.

Source: Patricia Callahan, "Bringing Young and Old Together on the Farm," Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2002.


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