Congressman Steve King is proposing changes in federal loan programs for beginning farmers. King says there’s a looming crisis in agriculture because too few young people are “going back to the farm” and changes are needed to help younger people get better financial backing. “One of the most difficult hurdles for a young, aspiring farmer to get over is the access to capital,” King says. “Farming and ranching requires expensive land, equipment and breeding stock and it’s often difficult for beginning farmers to get started.” King says if changes aren’t’ made, there will be even fewer farmers and the continued trend toward bigger, “corporate-type farming.” King proposes changes in federal “aggie bonds” that are used to help finance farms. King wants to allow for bigger federal loans to beginning farmers — loans that are backed by those bonds. Today, the limit is 250-thousand dollars; he wants it to rise to 450-thousand. King also proposes changes in other federal farm loan restrictions. Current restrictions forbid federal ag loans for farmland worth more than 125-thousand dollars. King says in Iowa, that would amount to about 60 acres of Iowa farmland. “That’s not enough to feed the livestock, let alone the family,” according to King. He proposes a restriction that’s tied to the size of the farm, not its value. He would allowing federal loans on farms that are 30 percent or less than the average sized farm in the county. According to the U-S-D-A, only six percent of the people who were farming in 2002 were under the age of 35. “This isn’t just a circumstance, it’s a trend,” King says. In 1954, 37 percent of farmers were over the age of 55. That proportion has nearly doubled since then. By 1997, 61 percent of farmers were age 55 or over. King, a republican from Kiron, is a member of the House Ag Committee.
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