A good conversation's developing over in Farm Business Talk on Agriculture.com about the number of farmers is declining. One farmer says: "I was just wondering what the number of farmers will be in the next 10 to 15 years. The BTO's in my area are getting bigger and bigger every year, and witht he prices the last few years have tons of cash and therefore staying power. I would bet that in 15 years we lose another 10 to 15 % of farms. I have a plan in place that is getting a young guy started, but I wonder if I am doing him a favor."
So, what do you think? Do you rely on help from older, more established farmers to help get more land, etc., to get started? Or, do you see them as a threat to your ability to grow your business?
Looking into the future: for us young beginning farmers this is a great time to be getting started in farming. The average age of farmers in the US is approaching 60 and I would suspect many of them will be retiring in the next 5-10 years. Unless they have a successor in place, this would be a great time for us young farmers to get our foot in the door and start building relationships with these farmers that are near retirement. In my home area there is only 1 neighboring farmer who is under 50. The rest are in their mid 50's, some in their 60's and one approaching 70. Of these neighbors, roughly 40 % will be turning the farm over to a younger generation and the remaining 60 % have no one to take over the farm. In the area that i work in, the opposite is true. About 70% will be turning the farm over to a younger generation/have already incorporated the younger generation into the operation and about 30% have no one to take over the farm.
With a large number of farmers retiring in the next 5-10 years a couple things can happen.
1. the retiring farmer rents/sells out his land. 1 less farmer in the world and another farmer expanding his acreage
2. retiring farmer rents/sells his land to a beginning farmer. No net change in the number of farmers but the average age of farmers decreased with the young guy starting.
The problem with scenario #2 is that there aren't enough young farmers to "take over" all of the older farmers operations so that will result in less farmers 10-20-30 years from now. I would suspect this cycle to keep repeating itself over our lifetime and eventually farming may end up being like a large corporation controlling huge amounts of land. So as indicated by my initial statements, the number of farmers could decline by 30-40 % over the next 5,10,15 years.