Young farmers and ranchers are optimistic about the future. Johnna Miller reports…
Every year, the American Farm Bureau Federation surveys young farmers and ranchers at a leadership conference for young leaders aged 18 to 35…”I think an overwhelming sense that this survey gives is that we’re very optimistic about agriculture. I think that’s exciting. Agriculture, in a sense, is a gamble. Every year when we plant the seed in the springtime we’re hoping that Mother Nature provides the perfect amount of moisture and the perfect amount of heat to produce a beautiful crop. And so we always have to be eternal optimists, we have to look at the glass half full instead of the glass half empty.”
Ben Lacrosse is a cherry, plum, and apple grower from Michigan, and chair of the organization’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, he says that while 87% of those surveyed are more optimistic about their industry than they were five years ago, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant concerns. Economic challenges top that list…”prices are strong for agricultural commodities, but we also look at inputs that it takes to grow that crop, in particular fertilizer and fuel. When the average American consumer has to go to the gas station they’re having to pay $3.50 or more for a gallon of gasoline. So, we’re worried about: where the energy prices are going to go; where the fertilizer prices are going to go; the input prices to grow our crops.”
And while regulations came in second, the survey shows that 72% say that balancing environmental and economical concerns is an important part of their job…”when you look inside those numbers, and you see that farmers and ranchers are using conservation tillage on a yearly basis, they’re using soil tissue analysis to make sure that they’re only putting on the correct amount of crop protection and fertilizer, integrated pest management, knowing when the perfect spray time is, things like that. So, the young farmers and ranchers are utilizing these tools to grow our food better in a more environmentally sustainable manner.
The survey also shows that the vast majority of young farmers and ranchers are using the internet and social media…” I think it shows that young farmers and ranchers understand that we need to be very open with the public and explain why we do the production practices that we do on the farm. Social media has been such an effective tool to reach out to consumers hundreds and thousands of miles away from our farms and explain to them why we’re doing what we’re doing on the farm. We’re out there, we’re engaged in social media, and we’re willing to answer any question that consumers have for us. We look forward to connecting with them using those tools.”