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CSIF survey shows Iowa agriculture bright spot for young Iowans

Posted June 11, 2013

Despite the exodus of young people from Iowa’s rural communities, a recent survey of Iowa FFA members conducted by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) shows that 78 percent of the members plan to live and work in Iowa immediately after completing their education and 97 percent said they had a positive outlook on the future of Iowa agriculture.

“This is encouraging news and highlights the exceptional role agriculture can play in helping Iowa retain some of our best and brightest young people,” said Brian Waddingham, executive director of CSIF. “This survey aligns with the uptick in calls we’ve seen to the coalition from farm families looking for ways to bring young people back to the farm.”

The survey also shows that a majority of FFA members want to return to some form of agriculture after completing their education. Of the nearly 300 respondents, 88 percent of respondents want to pursue farming or an ag-related field which is up from 77 percent in 2005, the survey’s inaugural year.

Mallory McDonald, a graduating senior and FFA member from Alleman, is one of those who plans to continue her ag education, with the hope of someday becoming a veterinarian, farmer or both. “Agriculture offers many different careers including farming, marketing, business and banking,” says McDonald, who grew up on a diversified farm where she does everything from feeding and training animals for show to cleaning out barns.

Mallory’s future plans are to attend Wartburg College to study biology, with the hopes of going on to vet or medical school. After completing her education, she plans to continue helping her family’s farm, while getting her own start. “Whether I decide to farm, work as a vet or doctor, or both, these careers will allow me to return to my rural Iowa roots and give back to the people who have given to my generation.”

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers provides young people like McDonald with opportunities to get their start in farming through livestock. “With land prices so high, livestock has become a viable option for many farm families wanting to bring a son or daughter back to the farm and get established,” says Waddingham. “The coalition stands ready to help farmers grow their farms successfully and responsibly by assisting them with siting new livestock barns and feedlots, interpreting rules and regulations, and improving neighbor relations, all at no charge.”

Other findings from the survey of FFA members include:
  • Eighty-five percent of FFA members are planning to attain at least a four-year degree, with 23 percent planning on obtaining an advanced degree.
  • Of those who want to farm, 45 percent want to raise both crops and livestock.
  • Forty seven percent believe the primary obstacle for young people not wanting to pursue farming as a career is that start-up costs are too high. Twenty percent believe the amount of work in farming is the primary cause, and 13 percent said lack of available land, with the rest answering too much risk and unpredictability, inability to earn a stable income, and absence of benefits.
In 2012, CSIF assisted 375 families in responsibly growing their livestock farms. The organization has now helped over 2,200 families raise livestock since its launch in 2004. CSIF is a non-profit organization that assists livestock farmers who want help interpreting rules and regulations, guidance on good site locations for barns, counsel on enhancing neighbor relations and tips on how to protect the environment at no cost.

This positive, solutions-based approach to helping livestock farmers grow is a collaborate effort involving Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation, and the Midwest Dairy Association.

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s farmers does not develop policy, lobby or charge for their services. Families wanting confidential assistance in growing their livestock farms responsibly and successfully are encouraged to contact CSIF at (800) 932-2436 or visit www.supportfarmers.com.

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