The president of the Iowa Farm Bureau is suggesting it may be time for farmers to consider giving up direct government payments, and for older farmers to be willing to make some concessions so young farmers can get into the business.
Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Lang says his group is discussing these new ideas as federal officials prepare to write a new “Farm Bill” in 2012.
“It’s hard to change policy once people become accustomed to policy, but as we look at the Farm Bill, we have had some success — the Farm Bureau,” Lang says. “Our resolution committee has now asked our delegates to look at the direct payments, of revenue protection, as a safety net, so that our farmers and the things that they do very well — they can add value and protect what they grow.”
Iowa farmers received about 10 percent of the direct government farm payments in the past year, for a total of about half a billion dollars. Lang says the Farm Bureau is also considering changes or incentives in government programs that would help younger farmers enter the business.
“My suggestion is through the Farm Bill is look for a way instead of spending one percent of the Farm Bill on young farmers is to move that up into the five or 10 percent and whether that is some kind of incentive for farmers to transfer their land to young farmers in a real opportunity, not one that’s just an opportunity for those exiting the farm,” Lang says.
The average age of an American farmer is 57 and 28 percent of American farmers are above the age of 65. That is a far higher percentage than in the general working population, as only eight percent of the entire American workforce is above the age of 65.
Lang, a dairy farmer from Brooklyn, has been president of the Iowa Farm Bureau since December of 2001. Lang made his comments yesterday during a forum at the Iowa State Fair.