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The Pandemic: Young, beginning farmers and ranchers impacts

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What do you think the 2020 decade will bring to all farmers?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us in the U.S. for more than 18 months, and there are noticeable signs of a reemergence. As with any black swan event, the acceleration of change in business, society, and personal life has been quite noticeable for some industries, individuals, and regions of the country. Stepping back, what are some of the opportunities the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth for young and beginning entrants into the agriculture industry?

During a recent webcast, agricultural lenders were surveyed concerning their future outlook for young people in the agriculture industry. Fifty-seven percent of respondents were very optimistic or optimistic, while 18 percent responded as neutral. Approximately one-quarter were pessimistic or very pessimistic and viewed the agriculture industry from a “cup half empty'' standpoint. Overall, the ratio of positive to negative outlooks was more than two to one.

Let’s zero in on the positive trends affecting farms and ranches during the pandemic. The increased demand for local, niche, and value-added markets has accelerated. Young and beginning producers with diverse backgrounds, connections, and the ability to interact with new consumer markets are finding success across the industry. Many producers in the “new wave'' have emphasized where food is produced, how it is processed, and distributed to markets. This group is very proficient at utilizing technology such as Facebook, Amazon, and home delivery services to find and retain new markets. Young and beginning producers are very adept at integrating new methods to ensure healthy soil and water by building on the existing practices of the older generation of producers.

Whether it is a farm, ranch, lending institution, agribusiness, or other entity that serves agriculture, the acceleration of business transition is now in motion. This represents an opportunity for the next generation to implement new methods of production, operations, and management that may have met resistance pre-COVID. Nearly one-fifth of farms and ranches have no next generation to succeed. This is a golden opportunity for non-family individuals to get started in agriculture using more nontraditional avenues.

The pandemic has also accelerated the need and urgency for high-speed internet in rural areas. Regardless of new entrants to the agriculture industry, the implementation of this technology could be even more powerful than the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 in creating a rural renaissance. This technology is not only important for business competitiveness, but it is critical for conducting family and personal affairs.

The decade of the 2020s will not be one-size-fits-all in the agriculture industry. There will be many pathways for the next generation of agriculturalists. Some will utilize new technology, others will use low-tech inputs, and many will implement a combination of both strategies. This decade will be an exciting time for new entrants into the agriculture industry.

Source: Dr, David Kohlwhich is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

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