Connecting retiring landowners and beginning farmers to keep agriculture aliveBy: Breana Behrens
Due to the increasing average age of private landowners in the United States a massive inter-generational land transfer is expected to occur in the United States. According to Virginia Agricultural Commissioner Matt Lohr, 70% of our country’s farmland will be transferred over the next fifteen years. How private landowners construct their estate and succession plan will have an immense impact on how rural landscapes will function and look after this transfer. It is incredibly important that landowners do not leave their land legacy up to chance, but plan for how to transfer their land and business to younger generations who have the will and ability to keep the working lands working.
There are a variety of barriers that private landowners face in transferring their farm including, estate and gift taxes, and managing family dynamics and expectations. A private landowner that is having a hard time finding someone to take over their farm should consider looking into Land Link.
Land Link is a program created by the Center for Rural Affairs. The program connects retiring landowners with beginning farmers and counsels them on how to work together to secure a plan to transfer and keep the farm viable. Some of the resources the Land Link program offers are: agricultural land leasing, retirement planning, new farmer financing, farm business counseling, and environmental assessments.
This program not only helps established landowners connect with others to keep a farm from being sold and developed, but also helps beginning farmers, and rural communities.
One of the major barriers for beginning farmers is the prohibitive cost of farmland. If an individual has not inherited family land it is very hard to gain enough capital to buy the land outright. Through the Land Link program, established landowners and beginning farmers can create innovative and flexible rental or sale agreements to ensure the successful, and perhaps gradual, transfer of land. More importantly, landowners and beginning farmers can work alongside one another and transfer institutional knowledge about the land, resources, and programs available to the specific farm. This will allow private landowners to transfer their passion, tradition, and connection to the land, and maintain their land legacy, while educating and supporting beginning farmers.
Rural communities also benefit from the Land Link program. The program provides a platform for the successful transfer of farmland to eager beginner farmers. This reduces the possibility that the farmland will be given to uninterested heirs or heirs that cannot create a management plan for the farm, resulting in the farm being subdivided and sold to developers. Maintaining rural landscapes is vital the economic health of rural communities and to our nation’s food security.
How does it work?
1. Interested beginning farmers, retiring farmers or landowners contact the Center for Rural Affairs or look online at http://www.cfra.org/resources/beginning_farmer/land_link
and fill out an application defining the goals, needs, and resources they bring to a partnership.
2. Information on landowners is compiled into a document and shared with the beginners.
3. Beginners contact landowners with compatible operations and begin the linking process.
4. Landowners and beginners work together to find an arrangement that works for them. Many landowners lease or sell only part of their land to a beginner.
If you are a beginning farmer or rancher or landowner interested in Land Link:
Please visit http://www.cfra.org/resources/beginning_farmer, or
Contact Virginia Meyer at the Center for Rural Affairs: firstname.lastname@example.org, (402) 687-2103 ext. 1014.
Land Link can also be found in the PLN’s Conservation Toolbox.