January might seem like an unlikely time to talk about farming. But there’s never been a better time to sow some seeds for Adams County’s agricultural growth—and here’s why:

America’s agriculture industry, as a whole, is concerned about farming’s future. Likewise, Pennsylvania state officials are also worried—so much so that they’re creating incentives and programs to make agriculture a more attainable career path for the next generation of young farmers. More on those programs, in a moment.

But first some facts and figures: According to the 2017 Ag Census for the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the state’s total acreage devoted to agriculture is 7.2 million acres, down from 7.7 million in 2012, and the majority of that land is owned and operated by farmers age 55 and older.

There’s also a wonderful glimmer of hope! According to a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture report, 14% of the state’s ag producers are age 35 and younger. You might wonder why this is a hopeful sign, as 14% is not a very large percentage. But that number actually puts Pennsylvania first in the country, in terms of the number of young producers. That tells us that Pennsylvania has a foothold into making a difference in the industry, continuing to contribute to our local, state and national food supply, as well as our local and state economies.

Here at the Alliance, we are thrilled to be part of these efforts supporting young farmers. There’s an innovative federal-state-industry partnership known as the Next Generation Farmer Loan Program. It’s one of the loan programs we are certified to administer in Adams County on behalf of the state, and we are ramped up and ready to invite young farmers to begin taking advantage!

Here’s a bit more information about the loan program. The Next Generation Farmer Loan Program uses federal tax-exempt financing to reduce a farmer’s interest rate for capital purchases such as the purchase of farmland or agricultural machinery or equipment. Funding is available up to a maximum loan of $552,000 with no more than $62,500 being used toward the purchase of used equipment.

To be eligible for the program, prospective farmers must:

  • Be a permanent Pennsylvania resident, at least 18 years old.
  • Meet lender’s credit standards.
  • Have access to adequate working capital, farm equipment, etc.
  • Borrower must not have had any prior ownership of 10 or more acres of land.

The definition of “economic development” certainly includes agriculture! The Alliance is committed to helping business owners of all sizes and types, including young farmers trying to get their businesses off the ground. And this program provides next generation producers a more affordable way to purchase land and other capital-intensive assets.

This collaborative program is a partnership between two major state agencies—the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. On a local level, the Alliance’s partnership with legal firm and bond counsel Barley Snyder means all the infrastructure is in place and ready to begin processing loan applications!

Please contact me directly at Adams Economic Alliance (717-334-0042, ext. 2 or [email protected]) to learn more about the Next Generation Farmer Loan Program.

Kaycee Kemper is Vice President of Adams Economic Alliance, which comprises three organizations: The Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), the Adams County Industrial Development Authority (ACIDA) and the Adams County General Authority (ACGA). Follow us on Twitter (@AdamsAlliance), Facebook (Facebook.com/AdamsAlliance) and LinkedIn (Adams Economic Alliance).

This article originally published in the Gettysburg Times, January 12, 2023