New numbers from NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service) indicate that the mass exodus of farmers and ranchers from their land has not slowed down. In 2012, there were 2,109,810 farms and ranches in the U.S. Fast forward to the end of 2016, and that number has dropped to 2,060,000, a decline of 49,810 farms.
This means on average that the U.S. continues to lose approximately 191 farms and ranches EACH WEEK. In recent years, the USDA has made a public plea for new farmers and ranchers, but the number continues to drop; due in large part to an aging farmer population that is retiring, a lack of new farmers entering the field, and a high new farmer failure rate.
Another reason why farmers and ranchers continue to leave their land is financial. Of the 2,060,000 farms and ranches still operating, 80.2 percent, or 1,652,120 farms and ranches have annual sales of less than $100,000 per year, and 50.1 percent have annual sales of less than $10,000. Faced with those numbers, many farmers have a spouse working off the farm to bring in additional income. But sometimes, that’s not enough.
And while the USDA was on the right track in calling for additional farmers and ranchers, numbers alone don’t tell the real story. It will be pointless to add 50,000 farmers in 2017, only to have them out of business by 2019. New farmers must be provided with the tools they need to be sustainable for the long haul. Unfortunately, new farmer failure rates are high, as they struggle with volatile markets, an unpredictable climate, and increasing expenses.
But what if we gave farmers and ranchers the help they need to succeed such as whole farm planning that addresses everything from growing a stronger community of farmers and ranchers, to financial planning tools that help to increase their profit margin? What if we helped prepare them for unforeseen events such as droughts and floods and how they can successfully farm or ranch in spite of those events? What if we provided them with the tools they need to create healthy soil, decrease negative environmental impact, and even help them determine what products they should focus on?
The reality is that we will likely never see the number of farmers and ranchers that we saw 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago. But we can provide those dedicated enough to enter this challenging field with the tools they need for long-term success, so they’ll still be here, farming and ranching, ten years from now.
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Holistic Management International’s mission is to educate people in regenerative agriculture for healthy land and thriving communities.
We have helped farmers and ranchers in 130 countries learn and practice Holistic Management for the past 3 decades. You can read some of their Success Stories to learn how Holistic Management has changed their lives and impacted their land.
As a non-profit organization, HMI is always grateful for donations in support of our mission. You can help regenerate land for healthy food and healthy lives with many giving options including scholarships for farmer/rancher training. Learn more here.