With New Farm Bill on the Horizon, U.S. Senator Tina Smith, Rep. Brad Finstad Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Invest in Ag’s Next Generation

WASHINGTON, D.C. [7.18.23] – This week, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced legislation investing in agriculture’s next generation. Despite the need for young people to get into farming, the reality is they face barriers like access to capital, rising farm land prices, difficulty getting operating loans, and a lack of opportunities for hands-on experience. The Agriculture Skills Preparation for Industry Recruitment Efforts (ASPIRE) Act, which was introduced in the House by Representative Brad Finstad (R-MN 1), would address some of these barriers to entry and make it easier for young farmers to join the workforce.

“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.”

“As a farmer, and as a father raising the fifth generation on our family farm, I know firsthand how important it is to make sure our future ag leaders are adequately equipped with the tools they need to succeed,” said Rep. Finstad. “I’m proud to help introduce the ASPIRE Act with Senator Smith and Congresswoman Pingree, which will help give those starting in the agricultural profession a solid foundation by facilitating relationships between local agricultural businesses and the next generation of industry leaders through work-based training programs.”

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.

The ASPIRE Act establishes a work-based agriculture training program within the USDA’s existing Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. This funding will help boost participation in apprenticeship and internship programs with local agriculture businesses, and create a pathway for more workers to enter the agriculture and farming sectors.