Young Farmers Conference

Just got back from the screening of American Meat at the Young Farmers' Conference at Stone Barns Center...

After the screening we asked farmers what they need help with, and they talked about a number of things, all of which grabbed the attention of the room: 

1) Paid training-To bring the average age of the U.S. farmer down from 57, we're going to train a new generation of farmers. Given the hard work, and long amount of time it takes to learn how to farm, we need to make sure that farmers get paid for on the job training. Ways to do this Give government subsidies to farmers that take on new farmers so they can pay interns. 

2) Cheap leases for land- The cost of land seems to go up every year. That makes it even harder for new farmers to get a loan in order to own land. We need to find ways to get land to new, young farmers cheaply. Ideas?

3) USDA-inspected slaughterhouses nearby- Craig Haney mentioned they sometimes have to truck animals 5 hours one way to get them slaughtered. That's not financially sustainable. We need to come up with creative solutions- like mobile slaughter units- like changing state laws to allow for small farmers to slaughter on-farm- It's different state-to-state. Farmers in Washington state face almost none of the regulatory hurdles that farmers in Iowa face. 

4) Lift limits on small farm slaughter- One farmer mentioned that state law only allows for 200 turkeys to be slaughtered on farm. This unnecessarily limits the economic potential of small farms. How can we work together to have common sense policies for our small farms?

5) More tax breaks for farmers- Full-time farmers should get substantial tax breaks on property taxes because without them we wouldn't be here.

The national conversation is soon going to switch to agriculture as we work through the once-every-five-year 2012 Farm Bill.

The people we should listen to more than anyone about where to spend our tax dollars are our farmers. 

Fred Kirschenmann- President of Stone Barns Center- said that we need to gradually shift our government subsidies to local agriculture. Not all at once. We can't fault our farmers because they gave us what we asked for- large quantities of corn and soy as efficiently and inexpensively as possible. But given current and projected energy costs- we need to wean ourselves onto a more localized food system that isn't so dependent on fossil fuels. The way we'll do this is with a tough strong new generation of farmers.

As we stood in a room full with just those people, the task seemed a little less daunting. 

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published this page in Ruminations 2012-07-18 10:06:31 -0400