Land Costs Creating Barriers to Entry for Farmland

Farmland values continue to increase nationwide creating a barrier to entry for new and young farmers at the 2024 land investment Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, Robert Bonnie, the USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, spoke on the importance of the next generation. He says there’s a land access program worth $300 million to help out, but access requires creativity.

About how we use our loans and guaranteed loans to support particularly young beginning farmers and ranchers. We think there are big opportunities there. We’re looking at ways that we can improve the servicing around our loans, that we can expand the amount we’re able to loan that we can streamline and make it easier for folks to get in. I talked about streamlining on the conservation side. And we’ll be out this year with some changes to the loan program that we think will enhance his substantially.

Bonnie adds farmland access is an issue that should be talked about within the context of a Farm Bill.

Rising land values are making it harder, particularly for young folk,s to get into agriculture and for families to justify staying in, so I think lots of opportunities here in our existing programs. But it ought to be a subject that Congress thinks about in the context of the farm bill as well. Obviously, we weren’t able to get a farm bill in 2023. We’ll see about 2024.

Outside of land access. Bonnie praised conservation efforts. He says farmers deserve more credit.

I think the environmental community doesn’t appreciate the depth of the commitment to stewardship in our private landowners in our farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. And we want to develop policies that take advantage of that to tap into that. It’s an enormous resource. We’ve got a number of examples across the country, whether it be wildlife conservation or others, where private working lands are making a difference. And we need to do a better job as we think about environment conservation of tapping into that and figuring out how we do a better job as the federal government in working with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to make that happen.

Bonnie adds nothing in agriculture can be accomplished alone.

So as we think about what we can do in USDA on all types of these things, we recognize we’ve got to partner with folks out in the countryside, whether it’s around our conservation efforts, crop insurance, what we do so that’s a really important piece.