WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), both members of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Wednesday reintroduced the Student Loan Forgiveness for Farmers and Ranchers Act, legislation to create a loan forgiveness program for beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as women, veteran, and minority farmers. Student loan debt is a major hurdle for beginning farmers, and this legislation would incentivize farmers to enter—and stay—in the agricultural industry, and strengthen opportunities to grow successful businesses.

“Connecticut farmers have always been the lifeblood of our rural communities, but starting and maintaining a new farm is increasingly unaffordable for young people who are often saddled with student loan debt and can’t afford to make additional investments necessary for success. By helping new farmers pay off their student loans, this legislation would pave the way for Connecticut’s next generation of farmers,” said Murphy.

“To keep Minnesota’s agriculture economy thriving, we need to continue to invest in the next generation of farmers as the average age of farmers keeps going up. There is more we can be doing to help future farmers fill their shoes,” said Smith. “Student debt is one of the most significant challenges our young farmers and ranchers face. This legislation would help incentivize a younger, more diverse workforce and help more people start and stay in farming."

“Young farmers across the country are passionately growing food for their communities and stewarding our natural resources. At the same time, they are struggling to find secure access to land, persisting through increasingly severe climate change impacts, and balancing rising farm input costs, household expenses, and student loan debt," said Young Farmers Policy Development Director, David Howard. "For many farmers, their student loan debt burden is keeping them from realizing their farming ambitions. National Young Farmers Coalition supports Senator Murphy's efforts to secure a long overdue update to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program that would extend the program's benefits to farmers."

In Connecticut, approximately 30% of producers are considered “beginning farmers,” meaning they are operating a farm with less than 10 years of experience.