Challenges of the 21st Century Farmer

by Erin Beck
December 18, 2015

Agriculture is constantly developing. And as agriculture changes, ranchers and farmers have to adjust as well. With the rapidly changing face of ag, what are some of the most pressing challenges that farmers will be addressing as the century progresses?


This has become the hot-button topic in agriculture for producers and consumers alike. A growing global population coupled with rapidly developing countries is placing pressure on natural resources: land, water, air and fuel to name a few.

Farmers have never been at a more crucial period in farming, when land management and conservation techniques are essential for soil and water quality. Sustainability will continue to be an issue for producers as they weather the unpredictable fluctuations of the environment and financial markets, all while juggling consumer demands.

Connecting with a Disconnected Public

Only 2 percent of the U.S. population is involved in agricultural occupations, which includes less than 1 percent in farming. A vast majority of consumers have no ties to ag production.

Agriculture is facing a major challenge in communicating its practices with those who have no concept of ag. With so much misleading information at consumers’ fingertips and misinformed politicians dictating restrictive regulations on agricultural practices, it has never been more important for farmers to connect with the public on their level.

The Aging Farmer

The average age of today’s U.S. farmer is 58. Everyone’s immediate reaction is to worry about who will replace these aging farmers, especially since a third of principal operators are 65 and older. A continuous downtrend of beginning young farmers adds to the alarm.

The skewed distribution of age demographics for farmers does have implications for agriculture’s future, but with evolving technology and research, “running out of farmers” isn’t one of them.

Older producers now control a major pool of resources, but fewer producers are stepping in to fill the shoes of those who are leaving the farming landscape. How those resources shift from the vast majority of older producers to fewer younger producers will impact nearly every agribusiness and producer, because a decline in overall producers means an increase in the average farm size.

Another challenge lies in successfully integrating younger producers into farming. New technology has played a role in enabling farmers to remain on their operations later in life. Succession planning and transitioning operations into the next generation’s hands while the older generation continues farming is a growing challenge.

Change is nothing new in agriculture. But as new technologies and policies continue to evolve, addressing those changes is important in keeping pace with agriculture.

Creating Content People Care About