Thursday, January 20, 2011

Young Farmer&Rancher Leadership Conference 2011

Last year's conference in Boise, Ritter photo

YF&R Leadership Conference Underway in Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls--The Idaho Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership Conference kicks off this afternoon at Shilo Inn in Idaho Falls.

Profitability, increasing government regulations and the impact of activist groups are the top concerns of Idaho’s leading young farmers and ranchers, according to a survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Despite the challenges, 80 percent of those responding to a recent AFBF survey found that YF&R members are more optimistic than they were five years ago, while 82 percent say they are better off than they were five years ago.

The informal survey shows young farmers and ranchers have a high level of apprehension about government climate change regulations, with 79 percent of those surveyed expressing high or very high concern.

A huge majority of those surveyed expressed concern about the impact of activist groups on their farm and ranch operations. A total of 85 percent were concerned or very concerned about activist groups. Only 7 percent expressed little or no concern.

Respondents were asked to rank their top three challenges, and the majority said it was profitability as the top, followed by government regulations, competition from more established farms and ranches, and willingness of parents to share management responsibilities.

And when it comes to what steps the federal government can take to help farmers and ranchers, 23 percent ranked cut federal spending as No. 1. Boosting U.S. agricultural exports ranked second, selected by 14 percent of respondents. Providing greater help to beginning farmers was third at 11 percent.

Young farmers and ranchers are also committed environmental stewards, with 68 percent saying that balancing environmental and economic concerns is important for their operations. The survey says 58 percent used conservation tillage on their farms. The majority of those surveyed, 57 percent, plan to plant biotech crops this year, while 43 percent said they do not plan to do so.

The survey also shows the Internet is an important tool for young farmers and ranchers. Nearly 99 percent said they have access to and use the Internet, with the vast majority, 72 percent, saying they have access to a high-speed Internet connection. Only 20 percent rely on slower dial-up connections and 8 percent turn to more costly satellite connections.

The social media site Facebook is very popular with young farmers and ranchers. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed have a Facebook page. Ten percent of the young farmers say they use the micro-blogging Web site Twitter, while about 12 percent say they post YouTube videos.

Communicating with consumers is also important, with 77 percent of those surveyed,saying they consider reaching out to the public about agriculture and their operations an important part of their jobs as farmers and ranchers.

“They're recognizing that we need to get out there and talk with our consumers, and they are doing that,” said Jake Putnam, Idaho Farm Bureau Media Manager.“Social media is just another tool in the communications tool shed its a nifty way to reach people who buy and eat the food that we produce, we will have a workshop on all of this on Friday.”

In addition, the Internet is an important tool for the group to access both general and farm news, with 84 percent saying they use the Web for that function. Seventy-two percent said they turn to the Internet to collect buying information for their operations.

The survey also reveals the group’s strong commitment to agriculture, with 96 percent saying they consider themselves life-long farmers or ranchers. “Young farmers and ranchers share the same traditional hopes and values that have always guided agriculture,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This survey shows that the future of American agriculture is in caring and capable hands.”

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