According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA/NASS), the majority of farm operators are between age 45 and 64. This aging trend in the agricultural industry is a growing concern.
In addition, the number of farms in South Dakota has steadily declined from 1982 to 2011. During this same time, the average farm size has increased. The concentration of large farms is an increasing challenge for beginning producers to purchase agricultural land.
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s (SDDA) Farm Link Program can assist the beginning farmer/rancher in their endeavor to find access to agricultural production land.
Farm Link began in 1993 and is a free service administered by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the SDSU Ag Extension Services.
Farm Link creates a directory of beginning farmers and ranchers as well as a directory of current or retiring farmers and ranchers for the purpose of facilitating a skills mentoring and land transition relationship.
By working with established landowners, new and beginning farmer/ranchers can gain access to the land, resources, knowledge, skills, and support they need to make a successful start.
SDDA also offers financing programs to assist farmers, ranchers, and value added agriculture production or processing ventures to purchase land, machinery, equipment, or livestock. The Beginning Farmer bond program allows eligible beginning farm/ranchers to obtain lower interest rate loans for qualified purposes by obtaining loan funds from the proceeds of a tax exempt bond issued by the South Dakota Value Added Finance Authority (VAFA). The bond program also allows a land owner to contract sale land, improvements, breeding livestock, or other depreciable agricultural property to an eligible beginning farm/rancher thereby receiving a federal tax exemption on earned interest. Information and eligibility criteria for the VAFA and SDDA financing programs are available at http://sdda.sd.gov/farming-ranching-agribusiness/financial-assistance-programs/ or contact the Division of Agricultural Development at (605)773-5436.
If you are a Beginning Farmer or Rancher:
Farm Link matches your interests with the farms and ranches in the Department of Agriculture's database. There is no maximum age definition to be a "beginning" farmer/rancher.
Through the Farm Link Program, the beginning farmer/rancher can benefit by:
- Gaining access to agricultural production land,
- Find help with financing, and
- Learning success tips from experienced landowners.
If you are a Landowner:
Farm Link can help match the characteristics of your farm or ranch with the interests of a beginning farmer or rancher in the Department of Agriculture's database.
Through the Farm Link Program, the landowner can benefit by:
- Ensuring the continuity of the farm/ranch family operation & legacy,
- Bringing fresh energy & strong hands to work on the farm,
- Promoting good land stewardship, and
- Ease the transition into retirement.