The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire published a new report, “Rural Demographic Change in the New Century: Slower Growth, Increased Diversity.” The report focuses on the continued decline in population and services provided in rural, or non-metropolitan areas.

“Rural America encompasses nearly 75 percent of the land area of the United States, and it is home to 51 million people. Demographic trends in this vast area are far from monolithic. Some rural regions have experienced decades of sustained growth, while large segments of the agricultural heart- land continue to lose people and institutions.”

The following map, included in the report, illustrates the trend of out-migration in the grain belt states and other agriculturally intensive areas.

While the lack of rural population growth has serious consequences, particularly in relation to the social structure and services provided, there are a growing number of young people interested in returning to rural areas and, in particular, in making a living from the land. Landowners can play a critical role in assisting this next generation of farmers and ranchers by providing access to land.

Working with a beginning farmer not only brings opportunity to young people in rural areas, it can also be financially rewarding for landowners. There are a number of state and federal programs available that incentivize landowners to lease or sell land to a beginning farmer or rancher. A summary of these programs is available on this site as well as information about leasing land to a beginning farmer.