The United State's Department of Agriculture just released their 2007-2012 Ag Census, which highlights positives and negatives of the farming industry across the country. Farming has been a family affair since the early 1800's. But what happens when the current generation of farmers want to retire? What then happens to the farm?
The Fegley corn farm has been in Berthold, North Dakota since 1940. Over the past 70 plus years, Clayton Fegley and his family have seen 10 other farmsteads in the area fade away due to economics and an aging population. And, it's a problem that's re-surfaced today. "It's important to remember that agriculture is the number one industry in North Dakota. Everybody no matter what your profession or what you do, you are tied to agriculture in some way, shape, or form," said Paige Brummund, an NDSU Ward County Extension Agent, who has heard of similar aging problems across the County.
The Census shows there are twice as many farmers over the age of 65 than there are farmers under the age of 35. Passing the farm from generation to generation has become a major issue across the country. "There are people out there in North Dakota that are becoming certified to be Farm Succession Coordinators that can get you the tools or resources to get you started on the right track to making those decisions," added Brummund.
Over the next decade, thousands of acres will need to be handed down in order to keep the family farm alive. And, planting a seed of commitment will be their key to success. "The amount of Capital investment that these young producers have to go through to be successful in farming is extreme. So it is something that they need to be sure that they do want to do, because it is difficult to get into it then get out again," said Brummund. Clayton Fegley added, "It's a commitment on those young individuals to buy in, it's not something you can just jump in and jump out of. It's a tremendous commitment."
While the number of farms across the country dropped 4 percent in the last five years, North Dakota remains in top 10 for Crop sales in the country. Fegley says the younger generation holds the key to continued success, and the future looks bright. "I see sons of farmers coming back and starting to get involved because the economics show they can make a living out of it," said Fegley.
The NDSU Extension Service plans on creating a farm succession program within the next year to help producers on to the next generation.