New legislation to address student debt was recently introduced as the Young Farmers Success Act. The bill, HR 3232, was introduced in the House and referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor. Introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney and cosponsored by Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, Antonio Delgado, Josh Harder, Lee Zeldin, Peter Welch, Robin Kelly, and Chellie Pingree, the bill aims to relieve some of the financial burdens on students pursuing an agricultural career.
The bill summary states its intention “to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to include certain individuals who work on farms or ranches as individuals who are employed in public service jobs for purposes of eligibility for loan forgiveness under the Federal Direct Loan program.” Previous iterations of the Young Farmers Success Act had been introduced both in 2015 and 2017 but were stalled in Congress.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is currently offered to teachers, nurses, and other public servants. HR 3232 would extend the debt forgiveness provisions to farmers and ranchers. A survey conducted by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) back in 2017 found that student loan debt was the second biggest challenge facing the 3,500 young farmers who responded to the survey.
“Eighty-one percent of the young farmers who responded to our 2017 national survey hold a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree. This means there is a very small population of beginning farmers without student loan debt,” NYFC Interim Executive Director, Martín Lemos said in a press release. “We need to do more for the next generation of farmers to succeed.”
As the average age of American farmers continues to rise, there is an increasing need to usher in a younger generation into farming. The bill is looking to incentivize students considering an agricultural career and help young farmers and ranchers obtain a better opportunity for success when starting out in the industry.
“The burden of student loan debt can thwart their ability to purchase the farming operations they need to get started, or drive them away from a career in agriculture altogether,” said Rep. Courtney. “This legislation would assist new farmers during the costly, initial phases of opening a farm business, and allow them a fighting chance to build a life on the farm for themselves and their families.”