Just a few days ago the journal Rangelands published a study from Wyoming which projects no farmers or ranchers under age 35 by the year 2033. I say bosh!
This premise was based on the ever-increasing age of farmers and rancher in the United States in general, but specifically the authors used data from Wyoming, where they reviewed decades of United States census data, sorted into classes based on worker age. They then mapped the results to use both state- and county-level trends.
They claim more than half of today’s farm operators are older than 55, which roughly matches USDA data on average age for all farmers across the entire nation. In fact, the average age of principal farm operators in the 2012 US census was 58.3 years, up 1.2 years since 2007, and continuing a 30-year trend of steady increase. The older age groups all increased in number between 2007 and 2012.
In all but two counties in Wyoming, the authors of the Rangeland article said farming has attracted ever fewer people 34 years and younger and that most counties have also seen drops in the 35–54 age bracket. As a result, the average age of farmers and ranchers has increased in every county in Wyoming since 1920, they say.
Based on their results, the authors forecast no operators younger than 35 by 2033 and an average age of 60 by 2050.
The US statistics say they’re very likely right on the average age of 60 by 2050 or before. The idea of no operators under 35 is anyone’s guess.
Certainly we have problems with getting young beef producers into the business, and apparently with retaining them of late. I noted this in my blog last June 5, which I titled Young Beef Producers Are The Ones Exiting The Business.
I have watched the average age of farmers, and livestock producers in particular, creep up by tenths of a year in age each year for as long as I can remember. Of course the logical outcome would appear to be farmers and ranchers so old that none remain alive. So far, however, that hasn’t happened. Somehow we keep getting enough retirees moving back to the family farm or something of that sort to keep the average age of farmers and ranchers from moving into the diseased category.
I don’t know what will become of this trend but I suspect we won’t see the end of it in my lifetime. Something will give. I freely admit I’m not wise enough to figure this one out.