For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Nazneen Ahmed (919) 716-0060
(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler today urged U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to make eligible farmers for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The PSLF program forgives the remaining loan balance of a Federal Direct Loan borrower who works for 10 years in a public service job while making loan payments relative to their income.
“I can think of no greater public service than devoting one’s life to feeding this nation,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “We must do more to support young people who invest in their education and their dream of farming in North Carolina. Providing loan forgiveness to young farmers would go a long way towards alleviating farmer shortages and securing our food supply for the future.”
“We have seen throughout the pandemic the importance of farmers, farming and food production to our well-being and even our national security. The United Nations estimates farmers will need to produce 75 to 100 percent more food by 2050 to meet the needs of a growing global population,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “In North Carolina, the average age of our farmers is 65. Getting young people interested in careers in agriculture is essential to our long-term ability to meet our food needs. This program will enable these young people to start an agricultural career on solid footing, ensuring that we have a generation of farmers eager and able to produce food, fiber and fuel products we all depend on every day. I believe this is a good and timely investment for our future.”
Nationally, there are six times as many farmers over the age of 65 as there are farmers under the age of 35. Major barriers to entry include the cost of education and the need to raise significant capital to start a farm; 81 percent of young farmers have a postsecondary degree. A 2015 study found that nearly 30 percent of respondents could not start a farm because of student debt and another 28 percent could not grow their business because of student loan debt.
More than 1.27 million North Carolinians have a federal student loan. The average borrower owes more than $35,300. Student borrowers have trouble paying their loans, a problem that is even more acute in public service careers where wages struggle to keep up.
A copy of the letter is available here.