First State puts young farmers first (Editorial)

(April 11, 2017) Back in 2011, Delaware, aware that the business of farming, through the years, had become an expensive adventure, out of the reach of many would-be farmers particularly if they had borrowed money to get that precious ag degree, came up with a plan.
It would provide those young men and women with the opportunity to follow their dreams when state lawmakers created Delaware’s Young Farmers Loan Program.
In that first year, 10 young farmers from Kent and Sussex counties received help purchasing land — for nearly 900 total acres.
It was funded through a $3 million allocation in the fiscal 2012 budget.
It is now five years later, and the loan program continues its contribution to the future of Delaware farming.
As of March 31, 32 loans, totaling nearly $7.3 million, have been settled, and 2,500 acres, all enrolled into permanent agricultural lands preservation easements, have been purchased with the help of the Young Farmer program
On average, the Young Farmer Loan Program has provided approximately 48 percent of the purchase price for these 32 farms. Average loan? $227,800 or $2,917 per acre. Program officials said the average age of the total of 38 loan recipients — that includes wives — is 29.
It is apparent — and that is no surprise — that Delaware lawmakers fully recognize the immense role the ag industry as a whole plays in the state’s economy and general welfare and, as the average age of the nation’s farmers continue to rise, state officials are not willing to allow farming in Delaware to wilt on the vine.
They are to be applauded for that budgetary courage and foresight.