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Most Ag Students Want To Be Farmers

March 31, 1998

FARGO, N.D. (AP) _ Most North Dakota agriculture students would like to farm or ranch after graduation, but fewer than half believe they will get the chance, a survey concludes.

Of the more than 600 students polled at five North Dakota colleges, 63 percent said they would farm after graduation if given the opportunity. But only 43 percent said they believe they will. Most cited the lack of start-up capital and poor profit potential as big obstacles.

Pat Jensen, North Dakota State University’s vice president and dean of agricultural affairs, said she is encouraged so many college students who are enrolled in agriculture-related classes still want to farm.

However, she said Monday the survey results show many students are worried about the economic impact of being producers.

The survey was conducted by Ag Ambassadors, a group of North Dakota State agriculture students, for the North Dakota Commission on the Future of Agriculture. The commission was formed last year with the goal of developing a strategy to increase farm income in the state.

Students from North Dakota State, Bismarck State College, Dickinson State University, the North Dakota State College of Science and North Dakota-Lake Region who are enrolled in agriculture-related classes were asked to fill out the questionnaire.

``What we really wanted to hear from the students is: ’What are your concerns?‴ said Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, who also serves on the Commission on the Future of Agriculture.

What the survey shows, Johnson said, is that while a lot of students want to farm, reality is pushing them away.

``The vision is different from the reality,″ he said. ``And the question is: ’What do we need to do to get the two in line?‴

Krysta Olson, a member of Ag Ambassadors from Burlington, said it worried her that even though 70 percent of the respondents have parents who are farmers, fewer than half of the students expect to take over the family farm after graduation.

Olson said for many, taking over the family farm means ``they’re just going home to debt.″

``If I were to go back and work on my grandparents’ farm, the last five years we’ve lost money on it,″ she said. ``The net return is getting smaller and smaller.″

Rhonda Graff, an Ag Ambassadors member from Carpio, said she believes she is typical of many agriculture students. Her parents farm and she wants to as well. But she doubts it will become a reality.

``I would love to do it, but right now my life isn’t taking me there,″ she said Monday. In fact, she said her father is discouraging his daughters from taking over the family farm, letting them know ``he doesn’t want us there″ in the future.