Part of an effective legacy plan usually includes at least one off-farm job. The supplemental income and benefits are often key to a successful transition from one generation to the next.
Here’s the good news: USDA says that there are more entry level agriculture jobs than graduates.
As we map out a transition plan to move the farm business from one generation to the other, two things are common. One is that the junior generation goes to college to develop skills to help improve the business. Two is that as the transition unfolds, the junior generation typically needs supplemental off-farm income to finance the transition process.
A 2015 study by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University says that U.S. colleges and universities produce 35,400 graduates with a bachelor’s degree, or higher, in agriculture related fields each year. And the study says this falls 22,500 short of the jobs available annually.
"There is incredible opportunity for highly-skilled jobs in agriculture," said former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "Those receiving degrees in agricultural fields can expect to have ample career opportunities. Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world's most pressing challenges. These jobs will only become more important as we continue to develop solutions to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050.”
Between now and 2020, the report predicts that almost half the opportunities will be in management and business. Another 27% will be in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The report cites a few areas of significant opportunities for new graduates:
- Plant science. There will be need for graduates trained in genetics, plant pathology, and insect biology to develop higher-yielding crops adapted to less-than-optimal growing conditions.
- Water management. Graduates with experience in watershed science, hydrology, irrigation engineering, and plant genetics will be in demand as competition for water resources increases. The western states region will have especially high demand for these skills.
- Animal agriculture veterinarians. Strong demand for graduates trained in veterinary care of traditional food animals will be high. Specifically graduates trained for poultry, dairy, and swine operations.
- Nutrition, both human and animal.
Consumers will continue to demand nutritious and safe food. Graduates with experience in food science and technology for new product development, food processing, and food safety will find many opportunities.
Animal nutritionists will see a continued strong employment market in research and development programs connected with feed and animal-health companies.
- Agricultural technology. As precision agriculture matures, companies will need more candidates with experience in software, hardware and agriculture to develop and improve their products.
- Sustainable agriculture. As the number of specialty producers (fruits, vegetables, organic products) grows, so will the need for knowledgeable workers and advisors. Graduates with degrees in specialized crop production and management will have more options.
- Management and business. This area contributes almost half the number of new ag-related jobs each year. There will be two sets of opportunities for these graduates:
Those with four year degrees will likely enter sales and technical service jobs.
Those with advanced degrees will more likely enter careers as economists, financial analysts, lending executives, marketing managers, and human resources specialists.
There is plenty of work in agriculture for college graduates. Some of these opportunities will make an excellent complement to your existing farm business. Some might suggest new ventures to expand your operation. And others might take the junior generation away from the home place in pursuit of a career. The good news is that agriculture college graduates will have choices.
If you have questions creating a successful business succession, contact my office at [email protected].
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.