Young Farmer Success Act: Student Loan Forgiveness for Farmers
With the help of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, a bill called the Young Farmer Success Act was introduced in Congress Last June. The bill has bipartisan sponsorship from Republican Chris Gibson of New York, and Democrat Joe Courtney of Connecticut. If passed, the legislation would add farming to a list of careers that receive student loan relief after a period of 10 years through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
We all know that farming is something that provides a public good, everyone needs to eat after all. We also know that farming is not one of the most lucrative professions people can choose, that people don’t do it for the money. But did you know that today the average age of American farmers is 58 years old, and that rate of entry of new young farmers continues to decrease? This doesn’t provide a particularly rosy picture for the future of farming in America. If we don’t want all of our food to be produced on a few corporate megafarms, we will need to find an easier path to entry for young beginning farmers.
The graph below shows the change in the number of American farmers by age category between 2007 and 2012.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness for farmers could be an important start. A way out of college debt obligations through the choice of a farming career might make it more attractive to the 71% of college graduates who carry student loan debt.
Here is how the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program works: If you are employed in certain public service jobs and have made 120 payments on your Direct Loans (after October 1, 2007), the remaining balance that you owe may be forgiven. Only payments made under certain income based repayment plans may be counted toward the required 120 payments. You must not be in default on the loans that are forgiven. Qualification for student loan forgiveness is not currently based on the type of work you do, but rather on who your employer is. The list of employers that provide eligibility for student loan forgiveness includes:
- Government organizations at any level (federal, state, local, or tribal)
- Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
- Other types of not-for-profit organizations that provide certain types of qualifying public services
For more information on the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program, go to Public Service Loan Forgiveness
The Atlantic Monthly magazine has a great article on the idea of student loan forgiveness for farmers. You can also visit the National Young Farmers’ Coalition website to learn more about how you can support the campaign.