U.S. Senator Tina Smith Leads Senate Agriculture Subcommittee Hearing on Expanding Opportunities for Beginning Farmers

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade, led a hearing focused on opportunities to support new and emerging farmers. According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, the average age of a producer in the United States is now 58, and in Minnesota it is 57.

One of the witnesses who spoke at the hearing about challenges faced by beginning farmers was Tessa Parks, Minnesota native and owner and operator of W.T. Farms in Northfield. Tessa is a young, first-generation farmer of color who, along with her husband, raises Holstein steers and runs a haying service.

“The average age of a producer in the United States is 58, and in Minnesota it’s 57. And of course, this number increases every year. That in a nutshell is why we need to invest in the next generation of farmers, so this country’s agriculture production continues to work,” said Senator Smith. “This is a matter of national security, food security, and the strength and vitality of rural America. Agriculture is a driving force in America’s economy.”

“Though I am new to farming and several generations removed from the farm, my connection to and love for agriculture is strong,” said Tessa Parks, owner and operator of W.T. Farms in Northfield, MN. “But beginning farmers like me face significant barriers to entry into agriculture, including a farm safety net that favors larger and more established farms, barriers to accessing land and capital, climate change, and ongoing corporate consolidation in agriculture that limits our opportunities and diminishes competition in the marketplace.”

Senator Smith has long been a champion of supporting the next generation of farmers, including farmers of color. During the hearing, she highlighted two pieces of legislation she has spearheaded in the Senate: the Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act, whichaddresses land access, market access, and capital access issues that under-served farmers face while trying to start up their farming operations, and the reauthorization of the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Grant Program, which provides grants to community-based organizations that work with beginning farmers, farmers of color, and nonnative English-speaking farmers to provide technical support. 

You can watch Senator Smith’s full opening remarks here or read them here.