afraid no one will be left down on the farm
Texas farmers are getting older and fewer young people are stepping up to take their place. State Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples tells News Radio 1200 WOAI that it's a problem we need to face head on. "Texans don't like being dependent on foreign oil," he says. "We must not become dependent on foreign food."
LISTEN to my Interview with TX Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples
That reality could be even closer than you think. According to the 2007 agriculture census, the average age of the Texan farmer is 59. That's the second oldest in the country right behind New Mexico. Staples says more than 80% are over age 45 while the number of farmers under age 25 has been cut in half in recent years.
Despite the need for a new generation to pick up the plow, he admits there are plenty of obstacles new farmers face. "It is difficult because of the high start-up cost, the great deal of risk that's associated with farmers and ranching," he says. And "this drought we had last year just really highlights how vulnerable farmers and ranchers are."
Not all hope is lost, though. While Staples wrestles with government regulations he says make it difficult for a new farmer to get started, farmers and ranchers themselves are stepping up. He says they have created a young farmers grant program, awarding "grants to 81 recipients thus far, about $650,000 to help young people become engaged in production agriculture."
With that kind of focus, Staples believes Texas is starting to head in the right direction. Part of that will involve making sure farmers can make a real living. "We're continuing to look at export market opportunities" he says, "because we need to add sales opportunities to help with the overall profitability of farmers in Texas."