WASHINGTON — Access to land directly determines who has the opportunity to succeed in agriculture, yet access to this resource is greatly unequal and out of reach for most young farmers and ranchers.
The National Young Farmers Coalition has just released a new report, Land Policy: Towards a More Equitable Farming Future with support from Clif Bar. Drawing on dozens of stakeholder interviews and expertise from partners across the country, this report highlights the major barriers preventing the next generation of farmers and ranchers—and farmers of color in particular—from accessing the quality, affordable farmland they need to begin successful careers in agriculture.
“As a coalition of farmers, land is at the heart of our work. Finding secure access to land is the number one barrier preventing a generation of growers from entering the field,” said report author and the National Young Farmers Coalition’s Land Campaign Director, Holly Rippon-Butler. “Land is at the root of racial equity, food sovereignty, economic prosperity, public health, and the climate crisis. As we address these issues, land must be part of the conversation.”
The challenges are real: Access to farmland is the number one barrier facing aspiring farmers today, and this barrier is even higher for farmers of color. Land ownership is rooted in the dispossession of more than a billion acres of Indigenous land and centuries of stolen labor from people of color, sanctioned through policy while the contributions to agriculture from these communities have gone unacknowledged.
As a result, land ownership in the U.S. is vastly unequal—98% of all farmland is owned by white landowners and 95% of farmers are white. On top of this, farmers are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, farm workers are consistently denied rights, and the cost of land is rising. And farmland continues to be lost. Between 1992 and 2012, almost 31 million acres of farmland were irreversibly lost to development, and the agricultural land that remains is increasingly owned by non-farmers.
This moment is also an important window for change. A greater percentage of U.S. farmland than ever before is farmed by individuals nearing the end of their career, meaning hundreds of millions of acres are expected to change hands in the coming decade. This represents an incredible opportunity to shift power and resources, but bold policy change is needed. If we do nothing, the forces of wealth accumulation and extraction from the land will continue, and we will lose a generation of young growers who are trained and ready to grow food for their communities.
Young Farmers’ report offers a path forward through key principles to guide policy solutions, as well as important, actionable steps that policy makers can implement now to create more secure, equitable land access for the next generation of growers. The report acknowledges and uplifts the work that farmers, and farmers of color in particular, are doing to address inequity and land access challenges through organizing in their communities, and urges policy makers to reflect the values and examples embedded in that work.
The report calls on policymakers to act now to:
- eliminate inequities in land ownership and access;
- protect farmland for producers;
- facilitate appropriate, affordable, and secure land tenure; and
- support farm viability and transition.
The report is accompanied by a new website, youngfarmers.org/land, where farmers, policymakers, and supporters can explore a library of land policy solutions from Young Farmers and partner organizations, read case studies from young farmers across the country, and find additional land access analysis and resources.
The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is a national grassroots network of young farmers fighting for a brighter, more equitable future for U.S. agriculture. Visit Young Farmers on the web at www.youngfarmers.org, and on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
–National Young Farmers Coalition
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