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2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum: How Land Tenure & Transition Can Transform the Rural Economy

Posted by Mark Harris, National Agricultural Statistics Service in Conservation
Feb 10, 2016
Farmer Randall Hildreth at his 500 acre farm in Marengo County, Alabama
2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum panelist, farmer Randall Hildreth at his 500 acre farm in Marengo County, Alabama. Nearly 200 of those acres were in Heir Property status and are currently in the process of getting a cleared title. (Photo courtesy of Randall Hildreth)

Focus on land tenure and transition issues has grown considerably in recent years, especially its impact on new and beginning farmers. "New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture," said Deputy Secretary Harden.  "The average age of an American farmer is 58 and increasing, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy."  As the age of the principal farm operator continues to increase, the focus on this issue intensifies. Land tenure, succession and estate planning, and access to land for new and beginning farmers will be among the topics discussed in a session at USDA’s 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum this month.

Succession was also one of the key focal points for the 2014 Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey, the results of which provided updated data on these issues.  The TOTAL survey showed that U.S. farmland owners expect to transfer 91.5 million acres to new ownership over the next five years.  This represents 10 percent of all farmland across the nation. In addition to providing the number of acres expected to transition, TOTAL also provided data on how the owners expect to transition this land and much more.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducted this survey jointly with USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS).  At the upcoming Agriculture Outlook Forum, Mary Bohman, ERS Administrator, will moderate a panel and lead a discussion on “Land Tenure & Transition.”  Joining her on the panel will be Neil Hamilton, Professor of Law and Director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University, Julia Freedgood, Assistant VP for Programs at the American Farmland Trust, Greg Ibach, Director, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Dr. Damona Doye, Regents Professor and Rainbolt Chair of Agricultural Finance at Oklahoma State University, and Randall Hildreth a farm operator in Alabama and member of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.  To take part in the 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum and be a part of the discussion, visit for more information and to register.

Five-Year Plan to Transfer Acres Rented Out and All Farmland chart
The 2014 Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey by NASS highlights the challenges of land transition for farmers.
Category/Topic: Conservation