According to the 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA/NASS) the majority of farm operators are between age 45 and 64. This aging trend in the agricultural industry is a growing concern.
In addition, the number of farms in South Dakota has steadily declined from 1982 to 2011. During this same time frame, the average farm size has increased. (USDA/NASS South Dakota Agriculture 2012) The concentration of large farms is an increasing challenge for beginning producers to purchase agriculture land.
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s (SDDA) Farm Link Program can assist the beginning farmer/rancher in their endeavor to find access to agriculture production land.
Farm Link began in 1993 and is a free service administered by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the SDSU Ag Extension Services.
Farm Link creates a directory of beginning farmers and ranchers as well as a directory of current or retiring farmers and ranchers for the purpose of facilitating a skills mentoring and land transition relationship.
By working with established landowners, new and beginning farmer/ranchers can gain access to the land, resources, knowledge, skills, and support they need to make a successful start.
Enrolling in Farm Link is easy! Simply complete the Farm Link questionnaire (link at the bottom of this page) and return it to the SDDA. Periodically a Farm Link directory will be sent to you. As you look through the directory, you may directly contact the enrollee who best complements your questionnaire, interests, and goals.
SDDA and SDSU Extension Field Specialists can assist you in starting a conversation about linking possibilities and to help facilitate a skills mentor, farm transfer, work-in arrangement, or other mutually beneficial arrangements.
SDDA also offers financing programs to assist farmers, ranchers, and value-added agriculture production or processing ventures to purchase land, machinery, equipment, or livestock. The Beginning Farmer bond program allows eligible beginning farm/ranchers to obtain lower interest rate loans for qualified purposes by obtaining loan funds from the proceeds of a tax exempt bond issued by the South Dakota Value Added Finance Authority (VAFA). The bond program also allows a land owner to contract sale land, improvements, breeding livestock, or other depreciable agricultural property to an eligible beginning farm/rancher thereby receiving a federal tax exemption on earned interest. Information and eligibility criteria for the VAFA and SDDA financing programs are available at http://sdda.sd.gov/ag-development/financial-assistance-programs/. Or contact the Division of Agricultural Development at (605)773-5436.
SDSU Extension offers in-depth programs on farm transitions, estate planning, using financial tools, and running a farm or ranch business. Workshops, webinars, events, and on-line information provide agriculture producers with the most current and reliable information and tools. Other programs pair beginning farmers and ranchers with mentors to help them navigate the challenges of starting a farm or ranch business. Visit SDSU Extension to learn more.
If you are a Beginning Farmer or Rancher:
Farm Link matches your interests with the farms and ranches in our database. You will receive a description of those farms along with the landowner’s name and address. You can then contact the landowner directly. As new opportunities arise, they will be sent to you. We ask that you notify us when you no longer need our services.
There is no maximum age definition to be a beginning farmer/rancher.
Through the Farm Link Program, the beginning farmer/rancher can benefit by:
- Gaining access to agricultural production land,
- Finding help with financing, and
- Learning success tips from experienced landowners.
If you are a Landowner:
Farm Link can help match the characteristics of your farm or ranch with the interests of a beginning farmer or rancher in our database.
After we review your farm or ranch description, you will receive a directory of beginning farmers/ranchers. You may directly contact the farmers/ranchers whose description best fits your operation. Your farm or ranch description continues to go out to new beginning farmers and ranchers as they enroll in Farm Link. We ask that you let us know when our services are no longer needed.
By enrolling in Farm Link, you are under no obligation to sell your land. Your participation is voluntary. Farm Link provides landowners with the opportunity to connect with a beginning farmer or rancher who has a passion and desire to actively be involved in agriculture. This connection can lead to a skill mentoring or land transfer relationship.
Through the Farm Link Program, the landowner can benefit by:
- Ensuring the continuity of the farm/ranch family operation & legacy,
- Bringing fresh energy & strong hands to work on the farm,
- Promoting good land stewardship, and
- Easing his/her transition into retirement.
For further information on the Farm Link Program, contact:
Terri LaBrie, Finance Administrator