Sixty years ago, the average age of the U.S. farmer ranged from the mid to upper 30s. Since then, the average age has risen steadily; 45 years old in 1974 and 58 years old in 2007. Perhaps of more concern is fewer young people are entering the field of agriculture as a career choice, leaving the industry—and the world—concerned about who will feed the world in the years ahead.

In response to the problem, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has responded with many programs designed to entice youth into a career of farming. Under its direct operating loan program, USDA also makes loans to rural youth to establish and operate income-producing projects of modest size in connection with their participation in 4-H clubs, FFA, and similar organizations.

Guaranteed loans are made through private lenders with a guarantee of up to 95 percent of the loss of principal and interest. Direct and guaranteed operating loans can be used to purchase livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and other material essential to a farm or ranch operation.

USDA also provides assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers under its Direct Farm Ownership Down Payment Loan Program, and provides retiring farmers the opportunity to transfer their land to future generations of farmers and ranchers. In addition, USDA targets a portion of its direct and guaranteed operating loan and farm ownership loan funds to beginning farmers and ranchers and Socially Disadvantaged Applicants (SDAs).