Local farmers react to new Ag Census report
DELMARVA – Farmers in the mid Atlantic region are struggling according to some USDA 2017 census numbers, showing the average age of farmers continues to rise with more small farms finding it difficult to make a profit. It’s a tough pill to swallow following last year’s disastrous weather.
Virgil Shockley, a farmer in Worcester County for over five decades, says another concern is that farmers simply aren’t making enough profit, or even making a profit at all.
“If you’re looking for six percent, seven percent, eight percent income return, you’re not looking at farming… You’re better off just going hitting the stock market up the way it’s been running.”
With the average age of farmers increasing, the question has to be asked what can attract more young people into agriculture. But thanks to rising prices of machinery and land, Shockley says you have to have some deep pockets.
And those rising prices may be enough to force veterans out as well.
“Somebody, somewhere, is going to set still and just go, ‘do I really want to continue to do this,'” Shockley said with a matter-of-fact tone.
It’s not just Maryland farmers that are feeling the sting, Delaware farmers also face a challenge after the census revealed that the state has lost dozens of farms and farmers between the years 2012 and 2017.
Delaware saw a drop in the number of farms of all different brackets in terms of number of employees, except farms with 10 or more workers.
Shockley says farmers will need some good fortune in the near future to get things turned around.
“What really is going to happen in ten years from now will depend on what happens in the next two years.”
While the number of poultry farms in Maryland has increased, that number decreased over those five years in Delaware.