Since World War II, our nation’s food production has been on a steady march to monopolization and domina-tion by big agri-business. Consider Braden County, North Carolina: In 1945 there were almost 3,500 farms with an average size of 69 acres. By 1980, that number had shrunk to 719 with an average acreage of 182.
But resistance to this trend is taking root. Concerns about nutrient loss as food is shipped long distances, un-sustainable farming practices and genetic tampering have nourished local farm startups nationwide, and the Great Recession has freed-up previously unaffordable parcels of land. But family farming is still a hard row to hoe, and the National Young Farmers Coalition is working to make the lifestyle more attractive to young people.
The five-year-old nonprofit advocates for an array of issues important to budding farmers, including afford-able land, agricultural training and farmer networking. Funding for NYFC comes from individuals, foundations and businesses interested in the future of farming in America. The group currently has 1,000 dues paying mem-bers representing all 50 states.
One issue on the NYFC front burner is student loan forgiveness. Farming involves substantial up-front investment in land and equipment, yet little short-term return on that investment. The NYFC is trying to ease some of that financial burden by having farming added to the list of occupations eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Under the program, participants who go into certain public service careers must make income-adjusted student loan payments for 10 years, after which the remainder of the loan is forgiven. The NYFC hopes to have a bill ready for de-bate this spring that would give farming that status.
The NYFC stresses that farming is a lifelong commitment – and we must make a lifelong commitment to our farmers.
Learn more at www.youngfarmers.org