In the last Presidential campaign, our “dependence on foreign oil” formed the basis of many talking-point memos and debates. While I believe such energy dependence is dangerous and unnecessary, according to the most recent USDA Census, America is losing its ability to raise its own food and thereby feed itself. If we believe it bad to be dependent on foreign oil, we needn’t try being dependent on foreign food.
Like the rest of the United States, Alabama is not replenishing its farming base.
The average age of the principal farm operator has increased roughly one year in each census cycle, from 50.3 in 1978 to 57.1 in 2007. The majority of farm operators are between 45 and 64, but the fastest growing group of farm operators is those 65 years and older.
More than one out of every four farmers is over 65 years old, and less than 6% of all American farmers are younger than 35 years old. Farming is not learned in a classroom and typically requires several generations of learning and know-how. Accordingly, we must begin correcting this trend now. If another generation passes without replenishing the farming class, we will be dependent on global markets and foreign governments for our daily bread.
What is Alabama doing to encourage and inspire young aspiring farmers and ranchers?