Attract Young People to Food and Agriculture

Attract Young People to Food and Agriculture

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.

AGree’s 2013 Positions

  • Support the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, with provisions to make science and agriculture science part of the national Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) assessment, or of other state equivalents.
  • Support dedication of 20 percent of funds within the Perkins Reauthorization Act toward agricultural technology and education.
  • Support new education and school-to-work programs that strengthen the knowledge, skills, and experience young people need to be successful in agriculture-related fields.
  • Support provisions to increase mandatory funding and re-authorization of programs in the 112th Congress Senate-passed version of the farm bill, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Rural Micro-Entrepreneur Assistance Program, grants for youth organizations, and grants to land-grant colleges and universities for food and agriculture science programs and education.
  • Achieving Transformative Change Over the Long Term

    • Invest in food and agriculture literacy for all students by ensuring that rigorous and relevant food and agriculture science programs, curricula, and tools are available and widely used throughout the K-12 education system.
    • Meet the workforce and consumption demands of the future and address workforce shortages by attracting more young people to careers in food and agriculture. Eliminate financial credit barriers to rural businesspeople and to new and beginning farmers to ensure a broad, sustainable, and safe base from which the sector can grow.
    • Focus on rural economic development and infrastructure by supporting investment and innovation that enable diverse, sustainable 21st-century food and agriculture ventures and economically stable rural communities.

    Moving forward, AGree will work with partners in industry, education, government, and across the food and agriculture supply chain to achieve food and agriculture literacy, promote systems for rigorous workforce development, and support investment and innovation in rural economic development and infrastructure through such efforts as these—

    Include science in Annual Yearly Progress assessments: In order for young people to meet the demands for skilled and talented labor in the food and agriculture sector, they must be scientifically literate, as tested nationwide in school assessments. AGree will explore and support policy conditions to ensure that science is tested across the nation and the results count at national and state levels.

    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

    View or download a PDF version of the Attract Young People to food and Agriculture position paper.