Congressman Chris Collins, NY-27, says Washington needs to do more to ensure young people become actively involved in agriculture. Collins pushed for Congress to pass legislation aimed at accomplishing that goal at Post Dairy Farms in Oakfield today along with local youth currently participating in 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs.
Collins is a co-sponsor of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 1727). This legislation addresses the ongoing credit, conservation, research and training needs of America's beginning farmers and ranchers. Large portions of this legislation are a part of the bipartisan, five-year Farm Bill recently approved by the House Agriculture Committee, of which Collins is a member.
"Farming and the agriculture industry play a critical role in the economy of our area, and in communities all around the country," Collins said. "But the average age of our nation's farmer is 57 years old. With a large segment of America's farmers and ranchers at or nearing retirement age, we have to encourage young people to enter this challenging, hard and vitally important line of work so we can sustain this economic engine."
As Congress works to finalize a comprehensive farm bill over the next several weeks, the legislation advanced by both the House and Senate includes important components of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. These measures will break down barriers for new agriculture entrepreneurs who often face limited access to land and markets, high land costs and a lack of sufficient support networks. The legislation also works to provide military veterans with an interest in agriculture with targeted assistance in navigating USDA policy and eligibility requirements for farm bill programs.
"This combination of enhanced existing federal policies and new initiatives is key to cultivating our next generation of farmers and ranchers," Collins said. "Passing these measures as part of a comprehensive farm bill will ensure that the programs already in place to support new farmers and ranchers do not expire when the current farm bill extension runs out."
Dean Norton, president of NY Farm Bureau, said, "There are growing pressures that challenge the best of farmers and may seem quite daunting to those just starting out on the farm. Rep. Collins is looking to reduce some of those hurdles with the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. At a time when we need new people to enter the profession, New York Farm Bureau appreciates his effort to grow agriculture in this state."
Jeffrey Post of Post Dairy Farms said, "As a local dairy farmer with a proud tradition of farming in Western New York, it is important to me that we do everything we can to encourage and groom our next generation of farmers. Farming is not an easy way of life, and when young people show interest in pursuing this line of work, we should help them establish a foothold in this industry for the betterment of their future, our local economy, and our nation's food supply."
Ivy Reynolds, local high school student and secretary of the New York State Future Farmers of America, said, "As a teenager with a passion for agriculture, it is my goal to be among the next generation of farmers and agriculture professionals. This nation's economy and food supply is largely dependent on the next generation of farmers. That is why is it so important that Congress establish and support programs that help nurture, train and incentivize young adults, like myself, to enter this profession and continue the agricultural tradition of America."
Beverly Mancuso, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, which runs local 4-H programs, said, "I'm very excited to have Chris Collins in Genesee County today, and grateful for all his support of 4-H, agriculture and farming. The healthy survival of agriculture is critical to every one of us - food, fiber, fuel - everything comes from agriculture. As our population ages, our hope and our future are in the hands of all youth."