The average age of principal farm operators is on the rise, up 1.2 percent from 2007 to 2012, as fewer and fewer young people choose farming as a profession. This trend is partly a result of the high costs of starting a farm, lack of capital, and low projected income. The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) conducted a young farmers survey and found that 78 percent of respondents struggle with lack of capital, while 30 percent of respondents would like to choose farming as a career but haven’t because their income would not be enough to cover their student loans. To address this crisis, Republican Representative Chris Gibson from New York and Democratic Representative Joe Courtney from Connecticut introduced The Young Farmer Success Act (House Bill 2590) on June 1, 2015.
The Representatives view farming as an essential service, and the bill hopes to incentivize choosing farming as a career by adding the profession to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Under the program–which is currently in place for public service professions such as government service, teaching, and nursing–the government may forgive a borrower’s loan after making 120 qualifying payments, or about 10 years’ worth, while the farmer is employed full-time.
“Much like teachers, doctors, nurses, and government employees who are already eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, farmers are public servants,” said Congressman Gibson in a press announcement. “Our farmers not only produce our food and fiber, they protect the landscape and generate substantial economic activity in every state. A self-reliant nation requires a vibrant agricultural sector, but student loan debt creates a significant barrier to getting started in farming. Our bill empowers young people to attend college and embrace this important vocation.”