New Survey from the National Young Farmers Coalition

The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) conducted a survey named National Young Farmer Survey in 2017. They surveyed 3,517 current, former, and aspiring U.S. farmers under the age of 40. A few interesting findings from the responses were: 60% of the respondents were women, 75% of the respondents did not grow up on a farm, and 69% were highly educated, having degrees past high school. The highest percentage of respondents (30.48%) were in the Northeast part of the United States. The average age of the respondents was 29 and more than 10% of the respondents were farmers of color or indigenous farmers.

For the survey, the NYFC gathered information pertaining to the top challenges that beginning farmers face. They found that the top challenges were access to land, student loan debt, finding labor help, and health insurance. Money seems to be a big factor when it comes to young and beginning farmers. A lot do not have the current means to obtain land, whether it be because they have significant loan debt or do not have enough credit to apply or receive loans to launch their farms. Since farming can be a dangerous career, health insurance is a must. Health insurance also costs money, but respondents say the Affordable Care Act is the most helpful insurance policy for them.

The survey also discusses how lawmakers can help young farmers start their farms despite the obstacles. Lawmakers can help young farmers by addressing land access and affordability, helping them manage their student debt, increase the skilled agriculture workforce, protect affordable health care, enable farmers to invent on-farm conservation, improve finances, and address racial inequality. If lawmakers helped with the above, young and beginning farmers would not face as many challenges of beginning a farming career.

Although beginning farming comes with challenges and risks, this generation has the skills to power through the ups and downs of starting a farming business. The NYFC survey results indicate that the young farmers of this generation are more diverse than those who have been farming for several years. Young farmers now are interested in operating smaller farms, committed to sustainable farming, and are optimistic about the future. The responses surely show that there isn’t one just type of farmer and that you don’t need to have farming history or past experience to want to be in the farming business.

If you are interested in reading the entire NYFC survey report, you can view it here.


Beneficial Use of Your Water Right

This is the second part in a series focusing on water law in Nebraska. The first covered what constitutes a water right in Nebraska. A water right is a permissive right to use the water, not a property right to the water itself. This next section will focus on the provision of what constitutes a beneficial use of water in Nebraska.

As outlined in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 46-229, “Any appropriation of water must be for a beneficial use.” This takes a little work to parse out the exact definition of beneficial use. To figure out what this requirement specifies, case law is the guiding source as to what constitutes beneficial use. The case that outlines a beneficial use is Hostetler v. State, 203 Neb. 776, 280 N.W.2d 75 (1979). In this case the landowners (the Hostetlers) inherited a piece of land which included a water right to irrigate a pasture. The previous owner told the Hostetlers that the water right had been previously lost because of lack of use. After conversations with the Department of Water Resource’s engineer, the Hostetlers were notified that there was no actual cancellation of the appropriation. After this, the Hostetlers built a temporary diversion dam. The dam was used only once to see if water would flow in the canal. After this diversion, Mr. Hostetler did not divert any additional water nor did he irrigate any section of the land, although he did water some cattle via this canal. Later on, the Department gave the landowners notice to cancel their water right based on the non-use of the water appropriation for more than three years. The Hostetlers challenged the cancellation of the water right, arguing that the diversion did in fact constitute a beneficial use.

The court disagreed with the Hostetlers’ argument, holding that “to constitute a beneficial use within the meaning of the appropriation statute, the use must be one described in the appropriation,” which was irrigating the land. In this specific case, the Hostetlers did not use the water for the purpose of one described in the appropriation. They instead only diverted a small amount, which was used to water cattle, which did not constitute a use described in this appropriation. Ultimately the court ruled that “in the case of an appropriation for irrigation purposes, actual application of the water to the land for the purpose of irrigation” is what constitutes a beneficial use.

Now, this case did outline a few excuses for beneficial use. These include the lack of water in the diversion source or, on the other hand, too much rainfall or moisture so that the diversion of water would result in waste of the resource. Ultimately, the beneficial use requirement would be excused if the appropriation purpose could not be met due to natural occurrences such as drought or normal-to-excessive rainfall.

The takeaways from this handout is that water appropriated under Nebraska law must be used for a beneficial use. The beneficial use must fit within the purpose of the original appropriation. So if the purpose of the water right was for irrigation, the water must be used for irrigation or be in danger of being cancelled if not used within a three year timeframe. There are excuses for such non-use, such as too much water to the point that diversion of water for irrigation purposes would go against good farming practices, or that there was too little water in the stream to divert.

If you have any questions regarding water use and your land, please contact us. As mentioned this is part of a series, so please come back often to learn about water law in Nebraska and important terms and issues regarding water and agriculture.

NEW Features Page from the Nebraska Department of Ag

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) created a new Feature pages wherein you will find stories of the people, the products and the programs that contribute to the success of Nebraska’s agriculture industry.  The latest NDA Feature profiles the Godbersen family of Wisner with focus on the NextGen program.  The article is available on the NDA website and you may elect to subscribe to receive an email each time a new article is posted.

Enjoy learning about the families that make Nebraska Agriculture happen!

Agricultural Liens, Loans and Leases- Free Workshop

You are welcome to attend a free workshop on Ag Liens, Loans, and Leases.   The workshops will be held in Davenport, (December 13, 2017) at the Community Center and Holdrege, (December 14, 2017) at the Phelps Co Ag Center.  With a lunch provided at both.  The workshops will run from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm.  There is no charge for the workshop.  To register (and for questions) call the Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258.

What the workshop is about?  Liens (Hawbaker) – Nebraska’s statutory agricultural liens, from the producer’s perspective:  What are they?  How do they work? These are liens that give creditors rights in certain property, such as crops, feed and livestock, to secure payment of obligations for goods or services, such as seed, fertilizer, ag chemicals, petroleum products, veterinary assistance, cattle care, harvest work and machine repair.  The discussion will focus on identifying the liens and understanding how they work from the producer’s perspective.

Loans (Goeller) – The presentation will provide producers with an inside look at “What your lender is looking for.”  The impact of Collateral, Cash Flow, Credit Score, Character and Trends on loan applications.  A brief overview of Balance Sheets, Trend Sheets and Ratio Analysis will also be included.

Leases (Vyhnalek) – The importance of lease communications between the landlord and tenant and useful lease provisions will be discussed, along with highlights of current lease rates and trends in Nebraska.

Joe Hawbaker, Agricultural Law attorney, with Hawbaker Law Office, Omaha

Dave Goeller, Agricultural Finance and Transition Specialist

Alan Vyhnalek, UNL Ag Economics, Extension Educator for Farm/Ranch Succession

These workshops are  made possible by the Nebraska Network for Beginning Farmers & Ranchers, the Farm and Ranch Project of Legal Aid of Nebraska, North Central Risk Management Education, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Nebraska Farmers Union Foundation, Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Next Gen, UNL Extension Thayer & Phelps Co.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act H.R. 4316

On November 8, 2017, Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), introduced The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R. 4316). This legislation supports the next generation of farmers and ranchers through changes to pertinent programs and issues including credit, technical skill development, crop insurance, and conservation. The farm and ranch community is aging; the average national age of a farmer is 58.  Millions of agricultural land acres will be changing hands in the next decade. This legislation focuses on breaking down some of those barriers that keep beginning farmers and ranchers from succeeding. For example, limitations on the number of acres enrolled in the Conservation Resources Program (CRP) will be removed, along with increasing the flexibility of CRP landowners to contract with socially disadvantage or veteran farmers in the last 3 years of their CRP contract. Additionally, this legislation prioritizes skill development for beginning farmers and ranchers by supporting service providers in their states to increase training and information gathering. Limits on lending by FSA for Direct Farm Ownership Loan will be increased to $500,000 to help purchase a farm or ranch. To learn more about The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, please visit this Sectional Outline or the Full Text of the legislation.

Farm transition and succession is the main focus of Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. We work daily with established farmers and ranchers on transitioning their farm. Additionally, we work closely with beginning farmers and ranchers with their legal needs, along with financial guidance, to ensure their enterprises are sustainable and successful. If you have any questions about farm and ranch transitions please call the Rural Response Hotline 1-800-464-0258.