Carrying the farm to the next generation

We can’t let this be how it ends.

Kansas farmers have always endured—it is often one of the first things written in the story of who we are. We built the farms, the towns, the economic power that brought the railroads and we became stewards of this land.

Kansas farmers have spent generations knowing that we were keeping a promise to all those that came before us and would come after us. We built Kansas and the cities sprung from our success.

Now, though, that promise to the farm has become much harder to keep even as our cities boom—and we can’t forget that it’s the farmers that put food on the table and over $8 billion in economic power to the state.

We have seen crises before in the farming community, the economic collapse that nearly destroyed family farming, droughts, fires, and poor harvests—but we are still here. So now, why are we looking at our kids and the next generation of farmers and asking ourselves if it is fair or worth it to ask them to keep this promise?

Market swings that drive up costs of fertilizers, fuel, equipment and supplies, they all drive up the price of doing business—but these factors pale in comparison to the costs facing young farmers.

Crippling debt for college when they pursue agriculture or related sciences and studies, housing costs that are exponentially higher than what their parents faced, and a business environment that requires infrastructure like high-speed internet, access to global markets, and understanding of global economic conditions. It’s hard to be a farmer but it doesn’t have to be this hard.

It’s time for the politicians that are supposed to be representing our communities to do their jobs. The solutions are simple, and some leaders in Kansas are focused on clean simple solutions—but others are still spending way too much time telling us who to be mad at instead of working for us, and that’s not how your government should treat you.

The Kansas House Democrats and Treasurer Lynn Rogers have introduced a plan that helps fight back against the things drawing the next generation of Kansas farmers away from the fields, by providing the family farm with a tool to pay off the student loan debt that pushes these young farmers away.

One of the three provisions of the package is for a student loan repayment program, or tuition reimbursement program. The family farm can now offer to pay off the balance of student loans carried by your returning graduate and receive a tax credit up to $5,250 from the state to balance the burden.

First, it just has to pass. This package is a path towards financial freedom for the folks in your family who want to learn about agricultural and related fields in school and come back to put that learning to use on the farm or another agribusiness position, but don’t have the capital to handle the debt trap that student loans can create. They have to work for it, as it’s the family business offering the relief and receiving the credit from the state, but it’s a path where their hard work can pay off big.

Passing the farm to the next generation is how we keep Kansas farmers feeding the country for generations to come, but in order to do that we have to give our families pathways that aren’t a handout but are just a little easier for our kids to work their way down towards financial freedom and education. So let’s work together to carry the farm to the next generation, let’s support this tax package and create pathways that encourage our next generation of farmers to find their homes in Kansas.

—Lynn Rogers, Kansas state treasurer.