How desperate are you to get rid of your student loans? Desperate enough to become a farmer?? Of course, I say that in jest: Farming is an important and honorable profession that seems to be gaining an air of hipness to it despite the industry’s aging workforce. Still, because of that aging workforce, America seriously needs more young people to pursue careers in farming. Now congress is literally considering incentivizing a life on the farm by offering up student loan forgiveness.
Earlier this week, members of the House reintroduced the Young Farmer Success Act, a bipartisan bill seeking to add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. That preexisting program offers some government and not-for-profit employees student loan forgiveness on their remaining balances after ten years of qualifying payments (which isn’t a particularly easy task on its own).
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Though trying to incentivize farming with student loan forgiveness might seem a bit odd, many young farmers are stuck with student loans just like everyone else. According to FoodNavigator-USA, the results of a National Young Farmers Coalition survey in 2014 found that over half of young farmers said they were struggling to repay their loans despite working, and another 30 percent of respondents indicated that despite wanting to farm, they were avoiding the profession because they didn’t think they could earn enough to pay their student loan debts.
Meanwhile, Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney, one of the bill’s sponsors, gave a reminder on how dire the current situation is. “America needs a new generation of farmers, now more than ever,” he was quoted as saying. “The number of new farmers entering the field of agriculture has dropped by 20 percent, while the average farmer age has now risen above 58-years-old.” (That’s older than the average age of Pearl Jam fans – so we’re talking really old!)
All that being said, and despite its bipartisan support, the bill is being considered a long-shot after failing to get passed by congress last year. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still consider becoming a farmer. It just means you may need to mentally prepare yourself to be in debt while you do it.