WASHINGTON, D.C. [07/26/22] — U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced legislation investing in agriculture’s next generation. The Agriculture Skills Preparation for Industry Recruitment Efforts (ASPIRE) Act, which was introduced in the House by Representatives Tom Emmer (R-Minn.-06) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine-01), supports workforce development in the agriculture and farming sector.
Specifically, the ASPIRE Act establishes a work-based agriculture training program within the USDA’s existing Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to fund participation in apprenticeship and internship programs with local agriculture businesses.
“Agriculture is the backbone of Minnesota’s diverse economy,” said Sen. Smith. “With food shortages, supply chain snags and a tight labor market around the world, it’s vital we support and grow our farming sector here at home. This legislation will provide work-based training programs to support a new generation of farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and around the country.”
“The strength of our nation’s food security rests on the shoulders of the hardworking men and women of our ag community. Unfortunately, this industry faces an aging workforce coupled with endemic labor shortages,” said Rep. Emmer. “We are proud to lead this effort, which will provide hands-on experience and invest existing funds in our next generation of producers.”
“As the average age of U.S. farmers continues to rise, and more of our nation’s farmers near retirement, it is crucial that Congress work to support a new generation of farmers and ranchers,” said Rep. Pingree. “That’s why I am co-leading the bipartisan ASPIRE Act which will provide beginning farmers and ranchers with the hands-on experience they need to be successful through apprenticeships and internships.”
“This bill provides programming to get the next generation of farmers the hands-on experience and knowledge to be successful on their farms,” said Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation President Dan Glessing.
“Apprenticeship programs provide valuable training in many areas of the workforce and Minnesota Farmers Union is proud to support the establishment of a work-based agriculture training program within the federal Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program,” said Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish. “These apprenticeships and internships will be particularly beneficial for people who are interested in a career in agriculture, but aren’t involved in a generational operation. Likewise, apprenticeships and internships allow existing farmers to pass on their knowledge.”
Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the agriculture sector is only expected to grow two percent—lower than the average across other industries. Additionally, the average age of workers in the agriculture industry is climbing, and not enough younger workers are filling their shoes. Farmers under the age of 35 now make up only 9% of the agriculture workforce. In Minnesota, agriculture industry apprenticeships make up just 1% of the available apprenticeships.
You can access the full text of the bill here.