Today’s Topic: Aging farmers

by | Apr 17, 2012

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

Southern Farm Network logoU.S. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan recently sounded the alarm about America’s aging population of farmers. It’s a trend North Carolina has been experiencing for several years.

The average age of a farmer in North Carolina is now 57.3 years, and that number has been creeping up steadily. Commissioner Troxler says the only way to reverse that upward trend is to recruit more young people to take up farming.

Dr. Merrigan is visiting colleges and universities across the country in an effort to encourage young people to consider careers in agriculture. Commissioner Troxler also has been moderating panel discussions at universities across the state to draw attention to current issues in agriculture. The Speakers Series has been in place for a couple of years at N.C. State University, and this year it has expanded to include discussions at UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte and UNC-Greensboro.

Three of these sessions have taken place so far, and the knowledge and passion that students have for agriculture has been evident. But Troxler says the students need to act on their passion and get into farming. Admittedly, that’s easier said than done. Farming is an expensive career to take up. The cost of land and the capital investment needed to get going make it a real challenge.

A group known as the National Young Farmers’ Coalition is pushing for policy changes to make it easier for new farmers. And USDA has a lot of programs for young farmers, but there’s still a lot of red tape to deal with.

Troxler says we really don’t have a choice but to recruit young people to agriculture. Worldwide food demand is going up, and the United Nations says production will need to increase by 70 percent by the year 2050. Advances in research and technology have helped with productivity, but you’re not going to meet that demand without farmers, the commissioner says.

Click below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the aging of farmers in North Carolina and the U.S.

[Audio: |titles=Today’s Topic for April 17]

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