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Illinois Ag News Headlines
Latest Farm Data ‘A Wake-Up Call’ as Midwest Farmers Face Ever Steeper Challenges
Illinois Ag Connection - 03/04/2024

Zemua Baptista had dreamed his whole life of becoming a farmer. In late 2019, while still in college, he was able to get a contract and a beginning farmer loan to build eight chicken houses to raise broiler chickens. Eventually, the first-generation farmer’s birds are sold as rotisserie chickens at Costco stores.

Now, he keeps his eye on land opportunities, but he hasn’t been able to purchase any more than the 80 acres he already farms.

New data from the USDA’s Census of Agriculture show that farmers such as Baptista are becoming more and more rare.

“There are just not a lot of young people in the industry. It’s just not that common,” he said, noting that it was an uphill battle to get started.

More than nine out of 10 producers in the country describe themselves as white, a trend that is also reflected in the Midwestern states, where only 2% of producers are people of color.

The latest data show Baptista is one of just 14 Black farmers in Nebraska.

There are other alarming trends in the upper Mississippi River basin, one of the most intensive agricultural areas in the country: More and more farms are going out of business, and farmland is being consolidated, making it even more difficult to get into the industry.

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