Saturday, June 23, 2007

Senate Aging Committee Holds Hearings on Aging Farm Workforce

The ranking Republican on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Sen. Gordon H. Smith, introduced the panelists at a hearing on aging and agriculture by saying "There has not been too much discussion on the aging demographics of American agriculture" and pointing out that "Right now, nearly a quarter of farm operators in this country are 65 years of age or older. That contrasts with only 8 percent of that age class in non-agricultural industries."

The hearings covered a wide range of issues from immigration, to schooling, to estate taxes, reflecting the crisis outlined by Derek Godwin, Staff Chair and Watershed Management Extension Specialist, Oregon State Unversity Extension Services, Salem, Oregon, one of the panelists at the hearing:
In the last two U.S. Census of Agriculture reports the average age of farm owners continues to increase towards 60 years of age. This means that our communities and society in general can anticipate an unprecedented transfer in ownership of land-based business over the next couple of decades. In addition, the value of agriculture property has appreciated significantly over the years which adds complexity to how and if farms will transition to the next generation. We are at a critical stage in planning for the future of agriculture: recruiting and training the next generation of farmers and ensuring farms will continue to be viable, healthy operations. Every family owned business has to deal with transitions, but it seems to be reaching crisis proportions in agriculture.
The hearings are availalbe on a webcast.

Source: Senate Special Committee on Aging "Harvest Over The Horizon: The Challenge of Aging in Agriculture" (June 21, 2007)

Other Sources: Wisconsin Ag Connection "Hearing Looks at Effects of Aging Farmers on Ag Economy" (June 22, 2007)

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