WASHINGTON – As the U.S. Congress continues debate on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) on Thursday reintroduced the Student Loan Forgiveness for Farmers and Ranchers Act, to create a loan forgiveness program for beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as other groups such as women, veterans, and minority farmers. Student loan debt is a major hurdle for beginning farmers and this legislation will serve as an incentive for farmers to enter—and stay—in the agricultural industry, and strengthen opportunities for farmers to grow successful businesses.
“Farmers are critical to Connecticut’s economy, and we should be doing everything possible to make it easier for anyone to enter the field. As I travel across Connecticut, I consistently hear young people tell me that they want to stay in farming, but thousands of dollars in student loan debt holds them back. This bill will incentivize Connecticut’s new farmers to plant crops, buy equipment, and grow their businesses. Farming is a public service and we should help those who want to help their communities,” said Murphy.
“New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers are the lifeblood of our rural communities, and it’s vital that we make smart investments to ensure our agricultural sector remains strong and vibrant in the future. But the crushing burden of student loan debt is dragging down too many beginning farmers, and holding back young college graduates from coming home to start their own farms and ranches,” said Udall. “Our bill creates a student loan forgiveness program for beginning farmers and ranchers, making it easier for young people who are interested in farming to focus on pursuing their dreams instead of paying down a mountain of debt. I’ll keep fighting for resources to strengthen New Mexico agriculture and open doors for the next generation of farmers and ranchers to create good jobs, feed our nation, and grow our economy.”
“With the average age of farmers now nearing 60 years, and farmers over 65 outnumbering those under 35 by six-to-one, the next generation of farmers need Congress's support to succeed,” said Martín Lemos, Interim Executive Director of Young Farmers. “Allowing student loan forgiveness for farmers and ranchers will remove a major hurdle our nation’s young farmers face. Student loan debt creates barriers to accessing loans for land, equipment, or start-up costs, all necessary for a thriving agricultural business. We are grateful for this bill’s champions, Senators Chris Murphy and Tom Udall. With the support of Congress, we will encourage those who wish to pursue a career in farming to serve their country by building a brighter future for U.S. agriculture.”
In Connecticut, one in four principal farm operators are considered “beginning farmers,” meaning they are operating a farm with less than 10 years of experience. Between 2007 and 2012, Connecticut experienced a 30% increase in beginning farmers – one of the largest increases in the nation.