Dynamics of Farmland Ownership and Leasing: Implications for Young and Beginning Farmers1

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Abstract

This study considers the transition into farming and growth of new farmers in U.S. agriculture by examining land ownership and leasing trends. Our approach is to characterize the entire distribution by farmer age and farmer experience rather than using young versus old and beginning versus established farmer categories. We also use a linked-farms longitudinal approach to show trends over time in farmland expansion and contraction. We find that farms operated by older beginning farmers tend to be smaller and do not tend to grow over time. Our results show that it is mostly young farmers as opposed to all beginning farmers who rapidly expand their farm operations after entering agriculture. Our findings inform policy makers about the strategies that young and beginning farmers use to start their businesses and expand over time, and suggest more effective approaches for targeting loan programs to both young and beginning farmers.

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