States assist new farmers

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Financial concerns often keep people from entering farming or ranching as a career or way of life. Farmland about to be passed to the next generation is frequently snatched up by large producers whose access to capital drives up the price beyond what a beginning farmer can afford.

The consequences of fewer family farms affect more than the immediate family: Small businesses and rural communities have fewer customers and fewer taxpayers, reducing opportunities for people to remain in the country or move to rural areas. Increasing the number of family farmers and ranchers helps rural areas by increasing economic activity, broadening the tax base and increasing the number of jobs and taxpayers.

At least two states – Nebraska and Iowa – have implemented tax programs aimed at people who wish to enter farming and landowners about to retire. Nebraska’s tax credit incentive has increased to landowners who rent to qualified beginning farmers or ranchers, and eligibility requirements have changed slightly for the newcomer. A beginning farmer or rancher must be a legal resident, have production experience, provide a majority of the physical labor and management of the operation, and have a net worth of less than $200,000.

Iowa’s program is similar, with tax credits to the landowner who rents, and eligibility requirements for the new farmer/rancher. Iowa beginners must be legal residents, possess adequate experience or education, have access to working capital, equipment, machinery or livestock, participate substantially in the operation, and have a net worth of not more than $300,000.

For more information on these two states’ programs, visit the Web sites at www.Agr.State.NE.US/division/med/begfrm.htm and www.IADA.State.IA.US/program_summary_tax_credit.doc. Contact your state Department of Agriculture to find out if similar programs are available in your area.

– information from the Center for Rural Affairs,