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Ohio House passes bill to help young farmers get started

Peter Garrard Beck/Getty Images three generations of farmers
HELP GETTING STARTED: The Family Farm ReGeneration Act will authorize tax credits for those who sell or rent farmland, livestock, buildings, or equipment to beginning farmers. It also provides a credit for beginning farmers who attend a financial management program.
Those who are selling or renting to beginning farmers would be eligible for tax credits.

Farming is a capital-intensive industry, and one that is extremely difficult to get started in without already having some connection to the farm. The Ohio House of Representatives wants to make the transition from retiring or exiting farmer to beginning farmer a little bit easier by incentivizing that move with tax credits.

While House Bill 95 is yet to be reintroduced in the Ohio Senate, it passed with broad support, a 96-1 vote, in the House. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Susan Manchester, R-84, and Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-19.

HB 95, the Family Farm ReGeneration Act, will authorize tax credits for those who sell or rent farmland, livestock, buildings, or equipment to beginning farmers. It also provides a credit for beginning farmers who attend a financial management program. 

During her floor speech, Manchester noted that the average age of the U.S. farmer is 58. 

“By decreasing their tax burden, House Bill 95 incentivizes retiring farmers to recruit beginning farmers to take over their operations,” Manchester said. “This program also sets beginning farmers up for success by giving them an opportunity to learn more about the financial management of a farm operation.”

Under the bill, the credit is limited to five years and allows up to $10 million for the total amount of tax credits awarded over those five years.

A similar program was implemented in Minnesota in 2018, which has already enabled 162 established farmers to sell or rent land to beginning farmers and allocated $1.4 million in tax credits.

During testimony, Bennett and Liza Musselman, part-owners and operators of Musselman Farms in Pickaway County, said, “Farm Service Agency provides opportunities for young and beginning farmers, but the time that it takes from application to loan closing is significantly longer than a traditional loan.

“Young farmers have an added obstacle of finding a seller that is willing to wait additional days for a sale to be completed. The passage of HB 95 will give a financial incentive for sellers to work with a young beginning farmer, and thus help level the playing field.”

To qualify

To qualify, a beginning farmer would have to intend to farm in Ohio, or have been farming in Ohio for less than 10 years, have a household net worth of less than $800,000, provide the majority of the day-to-day labor for and management of the farm, have adequate farming experience or demonstrate adequate knowledge about farming, and participate in a financial management program approved by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

In a statement following the bill’s passage, Amalie Lipstreu, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association policy director, said, “Young farmers in Ohio are taking on the risks inherent in farming and working hard to build successful farm businesses. They are also facing significant obstacles that require creative policy solutions.

“Access to — and securing tenure on — affordable, high-quality farmland is the No. 1 challenge young farmers are facing. At the same time, millions of acres of farmland are changing hands as older farmers consider retirement and sale of their land. House Bill 95 provides an important bridge between landowners and those seeking land.”

The bill has support of the Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, and Ohio Soybean Association.

Lipstreu added, “The past year illustrated, in stark terms, the vulnerability of our food system. We must take the steps necessary to ensure that those interested in providing what is a paramount service to society — contributing to our food supply — are successful. We call upon the Senate to act by introducing and passing a companion bill in the coming weeks so that this bill is ready for the governor’s signature before the summer recess.”

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