Aging farmers leave an uncertain future for the next generation

IOWA - Earl Martz winces at the idea that one day someone other than a Martz may work the farm his family has owned for generations.

Martz, 71, raised hogs, corn and soybeans on the same 160 acres his father bought in 1913. Two of his three sons now are working the land, but the future of the family farm seems uncertain.

Soaring land values and operating costs, competition from large-scale operations, tax hurdles and market forces have made it difficult for young families to take over for the nation's graying farmers.

"I really don't think my grandchildren will farm," said Martz, now a year into retirement. "We don't know what will happen to it, really, after our two sons are done farming here."

The questions facing the Martz family are familiar to many American farmers and ranchers.

A 2002 survey by farm economists at Iowa State University found that nearly 25 percent of Iowa farmland owners are 75 or older. Another 24 percent are 65 to 74, and nearly 22 percent are 55 to 64.

The most recent census by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows a similar trend nationwide. Based on 2002 figures, the average age of America's estimated 2 million farmers is 55.3 years.

The next national agriculture census is scheduled for 2007, but economists say there is scant evidence to suggest the trend will reverse any time soon.

Source: Agri News
calendar icon 28 March 2006
clock icon 2 minute read
© 2000 - 2023 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.