That’s according to an annual survey conducted at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmer & Rancher Leadership Conference last month in Tulsa, Okla. Eighty percent of the respondents said they were more optimistic about the future of their industry than they were five years ago, and 82 percent said they were better off financially than in 2005.
There are some dark clouds on that bright horizon. Eighty-five percent of respondents were worried that activist groups would have a negative impact on modern farm production methods.
“There’s been a lot of negative publicity surrounding agriculture from special interest groups, and there’s certainly a lot of concern from young farmers about how this information, much of which is false, could affect their operations in the future,” said Jay Yankey, chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers Committee.
Yankey cited “Food Inc.” and other movies, food writers who have been critical of modern food production methods, and animal rights groups that have actively lobbied to restrict modern livestock practices. In 2008 California banned caged egg production in a referendum after the Humane Society of the United States spent more than $3.5 million to convince voters the practice was cruel.
“I think there’s a certain amount of fear out there in the agriculture community â€¦ that it could spread to their part of the country and affect their livelihood,” Yankey said.
The survey showed that young farmers are just as savvy about using the Internet and social media as their peers, with 99 percent having access to and using the Internet and 72 percent with access to a high-speed connection. Nearly three-quarters of the young farmers and ranchers have a Facebook page, 10 percent said they use Twitter and about 12 percent post videos on YouTube.
“I make comments on news articles and things I see on the Internet that have false or misleading statements concerning agriculture,” Yankey said. “I know several members of the AFBF Young Farmer & Rancher Committee that blog regularly and post YouTube videos. â€¦ I know there are a lot more young Virginia farmers doing that kind of thing, doing their part to change perceptions about modern agriculture.”
What about our farmers in Clarke County? Are you optimistic about the future of your farms? Are you using social media to promote yourselves? Let us know your thoughts.