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Abstract

This study considers the issue of the transition and growth of new farmers into 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 instead of a repeated cross-sectional approach to show trends over time in farmland expansion and contraction. Differences in farm size are more pronounced based on farmer experience than farmer age, as farms operated by older beginning farmers tend to be smaller and do not tend to grow over time. We find that it is mostly young farmers as opposed to all beginning farmers that 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 young and beginning farmers.

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