A program in the works is expected to help ensure the livelihood of farmers in Ohio and strengthen food-system resilience.
The Family Farm ReGeneration Act is a new law to incentivize established farmers and producers to sell land, livestock, buildings and equipment to those just getting started.
Amalie Lipstreu, policy director at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, said access to land is the greatest challenge for beginning farmers. With the average age of farmers in Ohio at about 55, she said the next generation must be well-equipped to grow food.
"It's in all of our interests to make sure that beginning farmers can access land," she said, "and also have the credit, the business planning assistance and the resources they need to not only start, but be successful over the long term."
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is developing the program, to provide income-tax credits to established farmers who sell agricultural assets to beginning farmers. The beginning farmers must take a qualified financial-management program, much like OEFFA's Heartland Farm Beginnings business course.
Ohio has the fifth-largest number of beginning farmers among states - about 33,000. Lipstreu said the Family Farm ReGeneration Act is a way to invest in them, which in turn will help make local food systems stronger during trying times.
"The COVID pandemic, war in Ukraine and the rise in the cost of fertilizers is really hammering home that issue of how vulnerable our food system can be," she said.
Lipstreu added that millions of acres of agricultural land will likely change hands as older farmers and ranchers retire, and these types of investments will help ensure those acres are kept in production.