The U.S. food and agriculture sector is valued at nearly $1.8 trillion of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and constitutes more than 8 percent of the domestic workforce.1 The sector includes production, processing, manufacturing, and retail, as well as pharmaceuticals and textiles. It encompasses 2.2 million farms, 900,000 restaurants, and 400,000 registered food manufacturing, processing, and storage facilities.2There are 22 million people employed in agriculture-related fields3 in over 200 career options,4 and an anticipated 54,000 new jobs in agriculture-related fields will be created every year between nowand 2015.5
Young people are critical to the future of this sector. With a focus on food and agriculture literacy for all students, AGree believes food and ag topics need to be introduced to students earlier and maintained with rigor throughout their education. The education system should provide young people with the skills, knowledge, technology, and background to be career and college ready.
A gap exists between jobs available in this sector and workers who are qualified to fill them. Given the large number of jobs in food and agriculture-related fields and the national significance of this sector to U.S. security and to the economy, AGree believes more needs to be done across the supply chain. Promoting innovative workforce development programs, eliminating financial and credit barriers that exist for beginning farmers and rural entrepreneurs, and providing resources to support relevant programs in 2- and 4-year institutions will create a stronger foundation for continued economic growth in this sector.
Rural economic development and infrastructure are also key to attracting and retaining young people. Rural communities and small businesses that support the food and ag sector require additional investment, including expansion of physical and technological infrastructure.
Ensure a food- and agriculture-literate population: A focus on food and agriculture literacy must begin in kindergarten and continue through high school. An agriculture-literate population will ensure that tomorrow’s leaders are better prepared to make policy and legislative decisions that have a profound impact on the nation’s food sources, growth and innovation in the food and ag sector, and health of domestic and international populations.
Meet tomorrow’s workforce demands: With agriculture-related industries’ job growth on the rise, policies, programs, and practices need to be in place to support innovative ways of filling these jobs with talent that is academically and scientifically prepared to deliver.
Eliminate barriers to innovation and success: New entrants into farming and ranching, as well as other capital-intensive careers, should have incentives to pursue these jobs as part of meeting the future demand for food. Barriers need to be lifted and new systems streamlined to facilitate production, processing, manufacturing, and distribution of food and ag products and outputs from other rural industries.
Support strong tax policies: Continue to preserve and protect ranch and farmland, through tax policy. Consultative support and systems for ongoing tax credits and assistance to farming and ranching families to transition their properties will ensure that farming traditions, productivity, and on-the-ground innovations are not compromised or lost.
Focus on rural economic development and infrastructure: Coherent and comprehensive legislation and policies are needed to ensure that rural communities and their inhabitants have the means, abilities, and infrastructure to innovate, grow employment, and support the U.S. food and agriculture system.
Although all the individuals formally affiliated with AGree may not agree completely with every statement noted, they are committed to working together to find solutions to the challenges facing food and agriculture. For citations, please visit http://foodandagpolicy.org/sites/default/files/AGree_position_citations.pdf
View or download a PDF version of the Attract Young People to food and Agriculture position paper.