Wyoming’s Aging Ranching Landscape

People are looking to the future to determine the fate of farming and ranching in the state of Wyoming and other agriculture-heavy states. A study completed by the Society for Range Management (SRM) and published in the December issue of their journal, Rangelands, addresses the issue of the aging ranching and farming communities. The study compiles about 90 years of census data and found it has become increasingly harder for the ranching and farming community to pass down the land and responsibility. Agriculture only consists of 2% of today’s workforce, when it once employed almost half of the nation’s working population.

In Wyoming specifically, the Rangelands report evaluated the current status of the state’s farmers and more than half are over 55 years old. There has been a drop throughout Wyoming in people aged 34-54 operating farms and ranches, as well.

The report draws some conclusions based on their results and the numbers do not get better. There will be no farmers younger than 35 by 2033 and most of the farmers will be 60 by 2050. The loss of interest in farming is attributed to the alluring coal and oil industries. Farmers and ranchers are having a hard time instilling interest and passion in their children and grandchildren.

The state of Wyoming and other agriculture-rich states are looking for ways to turn heads away from the big oil companies and get the youngsters into farming. They are proposing internship and school programs to ensure the distillation of information from old to young. There is thought of conservation easements and other monetary persuasions to prevent farmers from losing their land. Ultimately, it is essential for the state of Wyoming and other similar states to change the demographic trends in farming and ranching operations in order to continue the tradition.

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