A report from the National Young Farmers Coalition highlights the major barriers preventing the next generation of farmers and ranchers from accessing farmland.
“As a coalition of farmers, land is at the heart of our work. Finding secure access to land is the number one barrier preventing a generation of growers from entering the field,” said report author and the National Young Farmers Coalition’s Land Campaign Director, Holly Rippon-Butler. “Land is at the root of racial equity, food sovereignty, economic prosperity, public health, and the climate crisis. As we address these issues, land must be part of the conversation.”
Land ownership in the U.S. is vastly unequal—98% of all farmland is owned by white landowners and 95% of farmers are white. And farmland continues to be lost. Between 1992 and 2012, almost 31 million acres of farmland were lost to development, and the agricultural land that remains is increasingly owned by non-farmers.
This moment is also an important window for change. A greater percentage of U.S. farmland than ever before is farmed by individuals nearing the end of their career, meaning hundreds of millions of acres are expected to change hands in the coming decade. This represents an incredible opportunity to shift power and resources, but bold policy change is needed. If we do nothing, the report concludes, the U.S. will lose a generation of young growers who are trained and ready to grow food for their communities.
The report, Land Policy: Towards a More Equitable Farming Future, offers steps that policy makers can implement now to create more secure, equitable land access for the next generation of growers. The report acknowledges and uplifts the work that farmers, and farmers of color in particular, are doing to address inequity and land access challenges through organizing in their communities, and urges policy makers to reflect the values and examples embedded in that work.
The report calls on policymakers to:
- eliminate inequities in land ownership and access;
- protect farmland for producers;
- facilitate appropriate, affordable, and secure land tenure; and
- support farm viability and transition.
The report is accompanied by a new website, youngfarmers.org/land, where farmers, policymakers, and supporters can explore a library of land policy solutions from Young Farmers and partner organizations, read case studies from young farmers across the country, and find additional land access analysis and resources.