Young farmers advocate for climate changes, face land-access issues
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Young Farmers in Michigan 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, Michigan organizer with the National Young Farmers Coalition, said nearly 40% of young farmers lease their land and lack access to secure land. She said 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," Saldago said.
Solidago added she'd like to see the Land Access and Opportunities Act passed in the new farm bill.
Michigan has multiple land-reparation projects across the state to support land ownership for Black and indigenous farmers and others of color. A few that can support young farmers are the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund, the Washtenaw County Black Farmer Fund and the Farmers of Color Land Fund of West Michigan.
Solidago says 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," she added. "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."
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 that 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.
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