Land-access keeping young farmers from leading climate action
Young farmers in Missouri hope the new farm bill will include key benefits regarding land access so they can continue to pursue farming passionately. Without generational access to land and institutional knowledge of farming, young farmers face difficulties in entering the industry and building infrastructure for growing their business.
Payge Solidago, an organizer with the National Young Farmers Coalition, said nearly 40% of young farmers lease their land and lack access to secure land, and added four in every five of these farmers believe their work is regenerative and supports the land to improve its condition.
"We're talking about the ability to feed your community, the health and sustainability of the land, which is foundational to climate change. Runoff and chemicals, capturing carbon, pollinator health. All of these things farmers are thinking about, especially this younger generation," Solidago said.
Solidago would like to see the Land Access and Opportunities Act passed in the new Farm Bill.
Missouri has few land-reparation projects across the state to support farming and land ownership for Black and indigenous farmers and others of color. The Henry Kirklin Black Scholarship Fund is one that can support young farmers.
According to Solidago, 60% of young farmers say their top challenge is land access.
"All of these capital issues and land issues, whether it be climate issues, water issues, student-loan issues, BIPOC farmers are experiencing all of these issues at a higher rate than white young farmers. Farmers of color and queer folks have a harder time being able to enter these farming spaces because of what the communities often look like," she added.
Solidago said young farmers are on the front lines of the climate crisis and need support to continue implementing solutions on their farms. She says they often face barriers to accessing existing federal conservation programs.
"A lot of these USDA programs are designed for really large farms, and these young farmers with smaller farms, the program wasn't built for them, and applying is often not worth the trouble," she said.
Historically underserved farmers and ranchers who manage small-acreage farms have a crucial role to play in protecting natural resources, conserving water, and improving soil health. Solidago urges legislators to pass the Small Farms Conservation Act and the Land and Opportunities Act for the new Farm Bill.
The Missouri Public News Serviceis a partner with KRCU Public Radio.