Young farmers needed ‘over here’ (Editorial)

(March 21, 2017) Many great songs appeared in America during World War 1. They were aimed, primarily, at boosting the national spirit.
Witness “It’s a Grand Old Flag” and “Over There” and other never-to-be-forgotten tunes of George M. Cohan.
Then, in 1919, another tune by a trio of writers was published and recorded. It was “How You Gonna Keep ’em Down on The Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?)”
Well, seeing Paris is no longer in the equation but we are having trouble keeping ’em down on the farm.
According to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture (the last time it was counted), the average age of the American farmer has been steadily increasing and was then — nine years ago — 58 years old. 
That statistic, combined with the fact that the number of new farmers was down 20 percent in 2012, raises the question: How can young people be encouraged to become farmers?
Now fast-forward to 2017 when on On Feb. 15, a bi-partisan group of U.S. representatives — Reps. Glenn Thompson R-Pa., Joe Courtney, D-Conn., and John Faso, R-N.Y. — working with the National Young Farmers Coalition, reintroduced the Young Farmer Success Act (H.R. 1060).
The act addresses a principal barrier to young people getting into farming — student loan debt.
The act proposes to allow farmers and would-be farmers to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
The program allows public service professionals who have made 10 years of student loan payments while working in public service to have the balance of their loans forgiven. Other professions included in this forgiveness program include government service officials and law enforcement officers.
The act, if approved, would add young farmers.
Rep.Thompson commented, “The skyrocketing cost of higher education and the growing burden of student loan debt are presenting major obstacles for young farmers. The burden of student loan debt can thwart their ability to purchase the farming operations they need to get started or, conversely, drive them away from a career in agriculture altogether.”
He said the legislation would assist new farmers during the costly, initial phases of opening a farming business, and allow them a fighting chance to build a life on the farm for themselves and their families.
The act is a top-drawer project of the National Young Farmers Coalition which envisions, simply, “a country where young people who are willing to work, get trained and take a little risk can support themselves and their families in farming.”
It was in that spirit that Delaware five years ago launched a bold and innovative economic development program designed to boost young farmers or farm families in pursuit of their dreams.
In that first year, 10 young farmers from Kent and Sussex counties received help purchasing land — nearly 900 acres total.
It was funded through a $3 million allocation in the fiscal 2012 budget.
The program continues and an updated report on it is due in the near future, state ag officials said.
The future of agriculture, in these parts and across the nation, is wholly dependent on a new generation of young men and women willing to literally give it their all.
And in this economic climate — where a combine costs more than a Wall Street broker will make in a year — these dedicated young future farmers need all the help they can get.
We applaud any efforts to provide it.