Less Government Would Help More Farmers

Here in the Upper Midwest, we have produced ourselves into a period of low prices. Times like these show us which farmers have the deepest pockets as they’re the ones who are taking on more ground.

Last week I heard that another young neighboring farmer is losing most of his crop acreage to an older, larger farmer who is able to pay more in rent. That makes three that I’ve heard about in the last three weeks!

It’s no wonder that the average age of the principal U.S. farm operator is 7.5 times higher than the average age of a farmer in the 1980s. Farmers are 17 years older than the average American worker, according to a recent National Geographic article.

Truth is, there are many young farmers – many with a college degree in hand – who are for an opportunity to farm. It’s just that there are many barriers to entry, including the high price of farmland and equipment.

Any business is hard to start from scratch. But the very capital intense business of farming, with very low or even non-existent margins, makes it next to impossible to get started without help. There are many USDA programs to jump start a farm. There are even tax benefits for those who rent to a young farmer, yet too many barriers remain.

Here are a few barriers that must be removed to help younger farmers:

    • Reduce cumbersome regulations that cost farmers’ money. Research shows farmers are likeable people, yet some vocal consumers hate the practices we use. This has led to many regulations. What we need are more people who understand farming and know that farmers – not the government – should decide the best way to farm.
    • Remove death tax. If a young farmer is fortunate enough be part of a family farm, then our government shouldn’t make it impossible to keep that farm in the family.
    • Our current administration claims to support the middle class, yet life is getting more expensive.  The cost of energy tops my list. By limiting how electricity is generated, costs can only rise. Coal and atomic power are by far our most reasonable priced. Making our abundant oil supply more efficient with pipelines and rail also would be a huge help.

Plus, the U.S. needs to stop throwing dollars at our competition! The new Farm Bill is a SNAP for foreign farmers. Building roads and infrastructure in other countries may be a great cause, but we shouldn’t build them with dollars that the American public already thinks of as “American Farmer Welfare.”

The U.S. Farm Bill should not decide who the winners and losers. We can’t keep throwing the huge amount of dollars at the farmers that know how to “farm” the government. I’ve been studying the new farm program that we need to sign up for, and it’s a complicated mess. What a farmer decides right now can make or break a farm, and you have to live with your decision for the life of the Farm Bill!

The U.S. government is getting too complicated and expensive. Too much money thrown at problems that don’t get fixed. I believe most farmers can make it if we can keep the government at bay.

Bottom line: Let the economy and the hard work of farmers decide how the farms in this country will transition. They may get bigger, or they may start many new small specialty farms. However, the current system of government meddling is just going to tilt the transition the wrong way.