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Expected Farmland Transfers Pose Little Opportunity for New Farmers

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer
Many farmers aim to keep valuable cropland in the family.

A survey of farmland ownership conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture shows that in the next five years about 10 percent of farmland is expected to change ownership.

But Troy Joshua of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service says most of those transfers will happen through gifts, bequests, trusts or sales to relatives.

"It's still difficult for someone that doesn’t have the relationship or the contacts to bring, to break into the farming community," Joshua said. He added that the 23 percent of sales that will be public is a larger number than expected, but is still less than half of the percent to be put into trust.

Joshua says the survey also shows that much of the farmland that is rented is owned by people who are not farming.

"The data has proven to us that just under 45 percent of landowners have never farmed," he said. "They're willing to hold onto the land as an investment."

Joshua added that over 90 percent of non-farmer landlords own their property outright, while landowners still farming were slightly more likely to carry some debt.