The farm bill’s last title is likely one of the least controversial, but based on changing farm demographics, still key for the future of U.S. agriculture.
Title 12 – the USDA Operations and Outreach title – is usually overshadowed by debate on the safety net, conservation, nutrition, and other titles. But House Ag subcommittee Chair Jahana Hayes pointed out at a recent hearing, how important the farm bill’s last title really is. Hayes; “As of 2017, more than one-third of America’s farmers were over the age of were 65 or older. The average age of producers in the US is about 58, up from previous years in the Agricultural Census—a continuing trend we have been seeing for some time.”
Highlighting the importance of outreach through USDA programs to new, beginning and socially disadvantaged producers. Hayes; “Supporting our new and beginning farmers, who are in the first ten-years of operation, is key to cultivating the future of American agriculture.”
While Hayes says, encouraging more people of color, women and veterans, to go into farming will make for a strong Ag system for “years to come”—drawing bipartisan agreement from possible next Ag Chair Glenn GT Thompson; “As we prepare for the next farm bill, it is important to ensure young, beginning, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers know about and have access to USDA’s programs and the benefits they provide.”
USDA’s invested hundreds of millions in minority, beginning and veteran farmer programs, but department officials told lawmakers more help is needed, while some agencies like FSA lack needed programs.