Young Farmers Say Foreign Developers Buy US Land Because They Can’t Pay Student Loan Debt
Young farmers in the United States say foreign developers are buying more land and infrastructure as they struggle to secure loans and pay off student loan debts, which could force them to quit the U.S. agriculture industry altogether .
Foreign developers from Canada, China and Germany have been purchasing farmland, grain elevators and other farm property in the United States for years, including a 2013 purchase from company-owned Smithfield Foods. Chinese, for 146,000 acres of prime American farmland. But now, as massive generational transition take place in the US agricultural industry, potential young farmers say it is nearly “impossible” for them to own their own land. Nearly 80 percent of farmers under 35 have college degrees, and many say the crushing student loan debt has given foreign companies an opportunity to take over.
“If we don’t have farmers ready, the land is going to go to development or foreign ownership or consolidation, and those are the top three fears,” said Vanessa Garcia Polanco, political associate at National Young Farmers. Coalition. Recount Kansas City, Missouri-based NPR station Monday.
In an industry where land ownership is the primary form of job security, young American farmers say they struggle with short leases and an inability to get home loans. “Young people ‘s access to land is not easy,” said a representative of the American Farmland Trust News week On Monday.
Angela Huffman, a sixth generation farmer from Wyandot County, Ohio, tolD NPR in 2019 that several massive Chinese purchases could have been prevented by state restrictions on foreign investment. Lawmakers in the states of Minnesota and Iowa have since passed such bills. “Right outside my house, Chinese company Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, recently bought out a few grain elevators,” Huffman said, pointing to the field behind his Ohio farm.
“The money that those elevators brought in stayed in the community. Today, the money that those elevators brought in will go into the pocket of someone thousands of thousands of miles away. America, ”added Joe Maxwell, co-founder of the Family Farm Action Alliance and a fourth generation farmer from Missouri.
Tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt are increasingly blocking access to land and capital for first-generation farm entrepreneurs and young members of legacy families in the Midwest. Several members of the next generation of American farmers told KCUR-FM on Monday that the surge in foreign investment was pushing them out.
“For a student of color, everything [student loan debt] number is a barrier because it will prevent you from building wealth and having access to the things that this degree will open for you, ”said Iowa farmer Cait Caughey, detailing her struggle with $ 60,000 in college debt. “I know young farmers who had longer leases, and those leases ended.
“It’s just that there’s no way,” she said of paying $ 20,000 for two acres of total farmland to live and work. “Where can you find that kind of money, right?” “
The National Young Farmers Coalition and American Farmland Trust groups estimate that the average American farmer is between 60 and 65 years of age and nearing retirement. A 2019 AFT report found that ownership of 40 percent of U.S. farmland would change hands over the next 15 years, “putting both family farmers and the land they manage at risk. this time, potential farmers often can not afford to enter the field. “
More than 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors, a number that has doubled since 2000, say farmland protection groups. U.S. farm records show Canadian investors own the most U.S. farmland, followed by German and Chinese developers.
But John Trimmer, a farmer from Ohio, said the problem isn’t student loan debt, it’s that younger generations of traditional farm families have no interest in taking over the business.
“The last two farms we bought here, through an owner, she and her siblings inherited from their mother, and neither of them wanted to farm. None of them wanted to farm. has an interest in the farm. “