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Survey finds ag helps Iowa retain youth

Iowa FFA studentsAgriculture is helping retain Iowa’s youth, according to a recent survey of Iowa FFA members by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF). The annual survey, in its 10th year, found a record 99 percent of respondents have a positive outlook on the future of agriculture in Iowa; 90 percent want to stay in Iowa.

"At a time when rural Iowa struggles with population and the state of Iowa strives to retain its young people, agriculture continues to be a bright spot," said CSIF Executive Director Brian Waddingham. "The optimism in the survey results align with the questions we’ve received from Iowa farm families who want to bring their son or daughter into their farming operation and grow their livestock and poultry farms or start raising livestock for the first time."

Erika Ackerman, a high school junior and secretary of the Sumner Fredericksburg FFA chapter, is one of the FFA members who hopes to farm after completing her education. The Ackerman family raises pigs, cows, horses and hunting dogs.

"I want to continue the tradition of raising livestock on our family farm," Ackerman said. "People from around the world depend on Iowa’s farmers for food and fiber, and I can’t think of a more noble profession."

Other findings from the survey include:

• Of those who want to farm, a record 94 percent want to raise livestock.

• Forty-eight percent of respondents believe the primary obstacle to young people getting started in farming is high start-up costs, the highest this percentage has been during the survey’s history.

• Seventy-eight percent of FFA members are planning to attain at least a four-year degree, with 23 percent planning on attaining an advanced degree.

Approximately 350 FFA members responded to the survey at the recent Iowa FFA State Leadership Conference in Ames.

CSIF is a non-profit organization that assists livestock farmers who want help interpreting rules and regulations, choosing good site locations for barns, enhancing neighbor relations and protecting the environment.

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created by farmers to help farmers raise livestock responsibly and successfully.