Can you give us an overview of the National Young Farmers Coalition? What is the organization's mission and goals?
We believe we have one generation to transform agriculture in service to our communities and the land. We are that generation. The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers), is a multiracial coalition united by a vision for a just future where farming is free of racial violence, oriented towards environmental well-being, and concerned with health over profit. Young Farmers tackles the structural challenges preventing young people from succeeding in farming, such as access to land, credit, skilled labor, climate change, health insurance, racial injustice, and student loan debt.
Our One Million Acres for the Future campaign, calls for a historic investment in land access and transition to support the next generation of young and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) farmers. The campaign is mobilized by 120 majority-BIPOC land, climate, and water fellows. These farmer leaders from across the country convene in regional cohorts and as a national body to plan farm tours, policymaker meetings, and other opportunities to engage their communities and representatives, and advance crucial land and climate conservation policies. In March 2023, we brought these farmer leaders to Washington, D.C. for a Young Farmer Fly-in to advocate for equitable land transition and climate policy in the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill, the agricultural and food policy decision of the federal government, reauthorized every five years.
How did the National Young Farmers Coalition come into existence?
Young Farmers was started in 2011 by a group of farmers in the Hudson Valley who sought to tackle the challenges they and other beginning farmers across the country were facing, and to form a unified voice calling for a brighter future for agriculture. Over the last twelve years, we have grown to 30 farmer-led chapters in 23 states and over 200,000 supporters nationally.
What specific challenges do young farmers face in today's agricultural landscape, and how does the National Young Farmers Coalition address these challenges?
With 40% of the nation’s farmland at risk of transitioning out of agriculture in the next two decades and the climate crisis wreaking havoc on our nation’s farms, we need bold structural change. According to our 2022 National Young Farmer Survey, nearly 60% of young farmers surveyed name accessing land as the #1 challenge they face. This challenge is even more severe for BIPOC farmers, with 65% of BIPOC respondents to the survey naming accessing land as very or extremely challenging.
In 2022, the USDA announced a first of its kind grant opportunity, the Land, Capital, and Market Access Program. We supported 19 organizations in applying for funding, and 13 were awarded grants! You can find more information about grantees here.
The 2023 Farm Bill, the primary agricultural policy tool of the federal government, is our best chance to provide equitable resources for farmers, reorient agricultural policy to meet farmer needs, and build climate resilience. We are so excited to announce that we have launched the Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act, that will authorize $100 million in annual funding for community-led land access solutions through the 2023 Farm Bill. You can show your support for this initiative here.
Can you highlight some of the key initiatives and projects that the National Young Farmers Coalition has been involved in recently? How have these efforts made a positive impact?
Every five years, the we survey farmers in our network to paint a picture of the needs, make-up, and challenges of young farmers across the country. In 2022, we reached the most respondents yet - publishing a survey of 10,000 young farmers across the country. These survey results directly inform our Farm Bill advocacy strategy, and how we train our 120 majority-BIPOC land, climate, and water fellows to advocate for equitable land and climate policy.
Across the country, land prices are soaring, putting land access out of reach for many young farmers. As a result, many young and BIPOC farmers are leaving agriculture. That is why we launched our One Million Acres for the Future campaign and brought over 100 farmer leaders from across the country to D.C. in March 2023 for the largest young farmer fly-in in history! We led 159 meetings with Members of Congress and their staff, including staff of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and held a meeting with high-ranking USDA officials, including Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. You can read more about the Young Farmer Fly-In here! Young and BIPOC farmer leaders were at the table calling for land access, climate action, farmer well-being support, USDA access and accountability, and a 2023 Farm Bill that serves them, their businesses, and their communities.
In what ways does the National Young Farmers Coalition support education and training for young farmers? Are there any notable programs or workshops that you could tell us about?
We train 120 majority-BIPOC land, climate, and water fellows to effectively lead meetings with policymakers in their districts and in Washington, D.C., write op-eds, and engage in public speaking to tell their land access and climate stories and create transformative social change at the federal level.
What are some of the upcoming events or initiatives that readers should be excited about from the National Young Farmers Coalition?
We will be holding our annual Keynote Address at the end of the year… stay tuned! In the meantime please sign on and share our Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act with your networks.
How can individuals who are interested in supporting or getting involved with the National Young Farmers Coalition do so? Are there volunteer opportunities or ways to contribute to the organization's mission?
For just one dollar a year, you can become a Young Farmers member! Members contribute to our annual policy priorities and show your support of the Coalition! Becoming a member adds power to our movement calling for a brighter, more equitable future for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
You can also sign up for our newsletter, and updates for the Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act.
Looking to the future, what is the National Young Farmers Coalition's vision for the next few years? Are there any long-term goals or aspirations that you'd like to share?
Our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan captures our longterm aspirations best. By 2026 we hope to meet the following goals:
- Our staff and network will be thriving in a supportive and human-centered culture aligned with our organizational values, and will be operational change-leaders contributing to a larger movement for a just agricultural future.
- We will represent 50,000 farmer members nationally, creating an irrefutable voice for change in D.C.
- 500 farmer leaders in our network will serve in decision-making or advisory roles, shaping policy outcomes.
- Federal policy reflects recommendations from each of the pillars of our Federal Policy Platform.
- We will work with USDA to implement our farm bill wins, turning bold legislative change into material benefit for young and BIPOC farmers.