Photograph courtesy of NCOF.
The Farmland Access Legal Toolkit, a recently released online resource, is supporting current and aspiring farmers in finding and transitioning farmland. The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) reports that the biggest challenge for young farmers is access to farmland primarily due to the difficulty of finding affordable land for sale. Seventeen percent of survey respondents cited land access as their biggest struggle.
Laurie Ristino, CAFS Director, says that the toolkit helps farmers, new and experienced, through various resources by focusing on “innovative models of ownership, leasing, and estate planning that have worked for other farmers in similar situations.” The Toolkit, developed by the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School, breaks down the process of farming into three categories—leasing, access, and transfer. Each category is then subdivided, providing the user with answers and solutions to various questions and legal hurdles commonly encountered when accessing land. Additionally, the Toolkit showcases farmers who have successfully used similar tools, demonstrating the benefits of practices such as negotiation, research, and persistence. Lastly, it spotlights farm lawyers across the United States who are benefitting farmers and sustainable agriculture through their practice.
Difficulties with land access have prevented 30 percent of aspiring farmers from entering the field, and caused 20 percent of past farmers to leave the field. The NYFC’s Land Access Program Director Holly Rippon-Butler says that “The Farmland Access Legal Toolkit is a valuable resource to help farmers tackle this barrier—whether they are just starting out, midway through their careers, or thinking about farm transition. With nearly 100 million acres of farmland set to change hands in the next five years, we must act now to keep that land in the hands of working farmers.”
The NYFC highlights that, “According to the USDA Land Values 2016 Summary, agricultural real estate values doubled in the years between 2004 and 2013.” As the value of agricultural real estate continues to increase, the Farmland Access Legal Toolkit’s mission is to ease the intensifying land-access burden that many farmers face today.