A Helping Hand for Beginning Farmers - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

A Helping Hand for Beginning Farmers

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As it gets harder and harder to start out as a farmer, the Iowa Department of Natural resources is offering new help.

This year, for the first time ever, the IDNR will be giving priority to beginning farmers in its leasing program.

Agriculture is a major industry in our area, but it's become one of the hardest for young people just starting out to break into.

This new program could be huge in helping get some new farm operations off the ground.

It's for individuals, partnerships, and family farms with a net worth under $691,172. They have to be permanent Iowa residents with sufficient education, training, or experience. But, those who qualify can lease up to 240 acres of crop ground, and for farmers without a lot of resources, getting your hands on that kind of land can be really tough.

"I don't know if it's an issue finding it, but it's an issue finding it priced at a point where you can pencil out a profit. unless you're already a really well established farm," said Hans Schnekloth, who has been a full time farmer for five years, since graduating from St. Ambrose University with a degree in business management.

Schnekloth says he is lucky to be in the situation he is.

He's becoming a partner in the family farm, which consists of about 2,600 acres in Scott and Clinton counties. Eventually, he'll take over the operation.

"I'm the sixth generation of farmers in this family so it's kind of a long tradition," he said, as he was delivering corn from the field to the bin site on Friday afternoon.

Even after growing up on a farm, Schnekloth says there have been some pretty big challenges making farming his career:

"Just learning the trade," he explained, "You know anything from driving a truck to running a grain set up to completing paperwork."

It's a trade that very few people take up if they don't have an agricultural background.

"I think everybody is capable of it, but I don't think that everybody would be interested in it,"Schnekloth said.

But, even for those who grew up around farming, striking out on their own to start up their own operations can be very difficult.

"It all takes a lot of capital," said Schnekloth.

"Specifically right now in this time is a really probably one of the hardest times in history for beginning farmers to make a go at it," he added.

Still, Schnekloth says he'd like people to be able to at least try it out, and he thinks the DNR leasing program for beginning farmers could break down a lot of barriers.

"I think it'd be great if people could get into it that really wanted to do it," he said.

All leases available under the beginning farmers program will be posted on the DRN Realty website on November 1.

Leases will be awarded to beginning farmers who have been certified by the Iowa Agricultural Development Division starting in December.

Click here for more information about the DNR program.

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