NORTHAMPTON, MA, April 25, 2016–Nearly 30 percent of New England’s farmers are likely to exit farming in the next 10+ years, and nine out of ten are farming without a young farmer alongside. This is according to new analysis of U.S. Census of Agriculture data that was part of a study released today by American Farmland Trust (AFT) and Land For Good (LFG). The year-long study— that also included focus groups of older farmers—sheds new light on what will be needed to facilitate the transition of farms and farmland in New England to a next generation of farmers. At no point is a farm’s future more at risk than during this transition.
Ninety-two percent of New England’s 10,369 senior farmers do not have a farm operator under age 45 working with them. While this does not mean that these farmers don’t have a succession plan, it suggests that the future of many of these farms is uncertain.
“It was a real wake-up call to see how few farmers age 65+ have a next generation working on the farm with them,” said Cris Coffin, Policy Director for Land For Good, who directed the study. “The 1.4 million acres these senior farmers manage and $6.45 billion in land and agricultural infrastructure they own will change hands in one way or another, To keep this land and infrastructure in farming as it transitions, we will need better policy tools and increased support services to exiting and entering farmers.”Farmers who participated in the focus groups–most of whom do not know who will succeed them on the farm–generally want to see their land remain in farming, but are concerned about their own retirement and see financing and future economic viability for younger farmers as an obstacle. Farmers identified a need for help to navigate the complex process of choosing the right succession strategy and finding a suitable successor. Many also want technical assistance on specific aspects of farm succession and transfer.
Additional information about the study and a profile of findings from each state can be found on the American Farmland Trust and Land For Good websites at www.farmland.org/gaininginsights or www.landforgood.org/gaininginsights.
American Farmland Trust is the only national conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since 1980 American Farmland Trust has helped to permanently protect more than five million acres of farm and ranch land. Learn more at www.farmland.org.
Land For Good specializes in farmland access, tenure and transfer—and is on the ground in all New England states. Since 2004, Land For Good has helped hundreds of farmers and farm families find innovative solutions that keep their farms in farming and provide a meaningful legacy. Learn more at www.landforgood.org.