Two of the most commonly cited stumbling blocks to becoming a farmer are access to land and the piles of start-up capital required. Have you seen the price of a tractor lately? We’re talking $25,000 at the very least—and that’s for a small machine. But as the current crop of farmers in America slips past retirement age and into the grey beyond, still working, a third barrier prevents a new generation from taking over the fields: student loan debt.
“Student loans are a huge, huge obstacle for young people pursuing farming careers,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, executive director and cofounder of the National Young Farmers Coalition and the co-owner of New York’s Hearty Roots Community Farm. “Farmers in their first few years working as interns or apprentices, or even starting out on their own as independent farmers, they’re making a pretty low income. To pay a student loan on top of that is very expensive and almost impossible.”
To make the numbers work, the NYFC has launched a “Farming Is Public Service” campaign, pushing for farmers to included in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a federal program that incentivizes recent graduates into high-need, low-income positions in education, government, and medical fields. Those in the program make income-based payments on their loans, thus lowering the amount paid each month; the PSLF program forgives the balance of the debt after 120 payments and 10 years of full-time employment in a qualifying public service.
Read the full news on TakePart website.