Preserving and protecting working lands is inextricably linked with the vitality of that land and the resiliency of the surrounding communities. In this sense, America’s farm policy must enhance rural prosperity, improve food security in urban and rural areas, and support communities striving to maintain their working farms and ranches.
Today, the majority of American farm families need to have an off-farm income in order to stay on their land. At the same time, the economic divide between larger farms and small farms has dramatically increased over the past several decades, while middle-scale farmers and ranchers are being squeezed.
The population of farmers and ranchers in the United States is also aging. Five times as many farmers are now 65 and older compared to those 35 and younger, a clear signal that agriculture needs to be reinvigorated.
Farm policy must capitalize on the strengths of the existing farm and food system while recognizing that changes are needed to foster resilience and support economic vitality for all farms in both the short and long terms.
Building on Current Public Health Trends to Support Local and Regional Food Infrastructure
Farm policy must embrace the growing consumer connection to healthy and local food. Farmers and ranchers need a mix of programs aimed at enhancing farm profitability in this area through innovative marketing and business strategies; product promotion and consumer education; and on-farm improvements or diversification.
Government investment is needed to help farmers and ranchers protect their land and pass it on to the next generation, and for programs that help beginning and young farmers enter the business and keep their operations viable.