A group of 4Hers met Tuesday with a House Agriculture Committee subcommittee to present their take on the future of agriculture in the United States.
The Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research hearing focused on how youth involved in 4-H can help address the future of agriculture and the importance of fostering relationships between urban and rural communities. Seventeen National 4-H Conference youth delegates participated.
USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden also attended the hearing to present opening remarks.
4-H boasts a membership of six million youth, and is an agriculture-focused organization, though its members are of various rural and urban backgrounds.
"It is vital for us to listen to and understand how they are finding and creating common ground with individuals of non-farm backgrounds," subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., said.
"As the Agriculture Committee continues its series of hearings exploring every aspect of our food and fiber supply, it is important that we take into account all challenges in both a rural and urban setting. I am impressed by these young leaders and thank them for what they are doing within their home states and communities.
"These young people are the future of agriculture," Davis said.
Harden, who focuses on new and beginning farmers in her role with USDA, said the agency is aligning its resources to best serve the new generation of farmers and ranchers.
She highlighted the updated farm bill and programs that reflect "new and modern farm needs" as well as building new partnership and mentorship opportunities for farmers starting out.
"New farmers are as diverse as American agriculture itself," she said. "As the average age of farmers and ranchers in America continues to rise, the question of how we build our bench in agriculture becomes ever more important. As you can see here in this room, the work of supporting and engaging the next generation is already well underway."
Harden also highlighted USDA's 4-H, FFA and youth club youth loans, which provide up to $5,000 for eligible individuals ages 10 to 20 to finance ag-related enterprises. This fiscal year, FSA lent almost $6 million to approximately 2,000 youth for projects, she said.
Additional efforts include a revamped Farm Service Agency outreach program for new farmers and ranchers.
"We are working to make USDA more accessible and relevant in a changing landscape," she said. "The future of agriculture is exciting, diverse, and full of opportunity."
See a replay of the House Ag Committee subcommittee hearing, and see the names and biographies of all 4-H members participating in Tuesday's hearing.