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Exploring New Opportunities For Young Producers

work-help.jpgWell, I'm up bright and early this morning to get this blog posted before I head back to Sioux Falls, S.D. for another great day at the 61st Annual S.D. Cattlemen's Convention and Trade Show. Yesterday, I listened to an entire lineup of dynamic speakers ranging in topics such as advanced strategies for estate planning, comments from a beef packer's perspective, animal welfare issues, opportunities for young producers and the impact of COOL on meat markets. In the upcoming weeks, I will be reporting back on the many topics I just listed; however, I was most excited about the speech given by the South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Bill Even during our luncheon event. As a ranch kid himself, Secretary Even explored several options for young people to pursue as they begin their careers in production agriculture.

Secretary Even told us that we have an obligation to protect our land and preserve it for future generations. With 43 million acres of privately owned land in our state, there is a great amount of land that needs protecting for the next generation of agriculturalists. However, it's not always easy to make the transition from one generation to another. Even ventured to discuss opportunities with the NRCS Conservation Reserve Program. Because the CRP cap has been lowered, more land will be coming out of contract in the years leading up to 2012. Even explained a new program that was introduced into the 2008 Farm Bill, The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Transition Option for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers is brand new in the 2008 Farm Bill. Now, I haven't looked into the details of actually applying for this program, but as a young female producer, I imagine I might qualify for the benefits of this option.

A little about the program: The CRP Transition Option offers a special incentive of two years of extra CRP rental payments to owners of land, which is currently in the CRP but returning to production, who rent or sell to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who will use sustainable grazing practices, resource-conserving cropping systems, or transition to organic production. Any qualified beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is eligible to participate, except for family members of the retiring owner or operator of the CRP ground in question. With the likelihood that millions of acres of land covered by expiring CRP contracts will return to production in the next few years, this option offers an important opportunity for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to get a start on the land while also increasing the likelihood that the ecological integrity of the land will be protected.

I think this program might be worth looking into, and I'm excited that others are recognizing a need to help young people get started in this great agriculture tradition by exploring ways for young people to develop relationships with the older generation. On a different note, it was exciting to see the number of young people attending the meetings yesterday! With the average age of the American farmer or rancher pushing 60, the growing 20's crowd brought a new energy to the meetings that was fun to be a part of.

If you're a young person in agriculture, I want to hear your story today. Why did you decide to stay in production agriculture? What challenges do you face? What advice do you have for other young people in pursuing this career option? For the more "seasoned" rancher, today I'm interested in hearing transition stories. Maybe you have helped foster a young person into the business, or maybe you are working hard in estate planning to protect your business for future generations. We can only learn and grow more from listening and sharing with each other. Don't miss out on the conversation on this important topic. Have a great day!

BEEF Daily Quick Fact: Beef fat, called tallow, is an ingredient in soaps, cosmetics, candles, shortenings, and chewing gum. (Source: Beef Cattle Facts)