Beginning farmer status and financial performance differentials

Rebecca Weir, Joleen Hadrich, Alessandro Bonanno, Becca B.R. Jablonski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Beginning Farmer and Rancher programs are available for operators with ten years of experience or less on any farm. These programs support farmers who are starting operations, often without an initial asset allocation. However, some beginning farmers acquire operations that are already established, with substantial assets in place. The authors investigate whether a profitability gap exists between beginning farmers entering the industry ex novo and those operating a preexisting operation and if so, what factors contribute to the gap. Design/methodology/approach: The authors utilize the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition to determine what drives financial differences between first-generation beginning farmers, second-generation beginning farmers and established farmers using a unique farm-level panel dataset from 1997 to 2021. Findings: Results indicate that first- and second-generation beginning farmers have similar operating profit margins, but first-generation beginning farmers have a statistically higher rate of return on assets than second-generation beginning farmers. Established farmers outperform second-generation beginning farmers on both the operating profit margin and rate of return on assets. These results suggest that economic viability for beginning farmers differs depending upon the initial status of their operation, suggesting that heterogenous policies may be more impactful in supporting various pathways to enter agriculture. Originality/value: This analysis is the first to identify beginning farmers that enter the industry without an asset base and those that take over a principal operator role on an established farm through an assumed farm transition. The authors quantify differences in financial performance using detailed accrual-based financial data that tracks farms over time in one dataset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)762-782
Number of pages21
JournalAgricultural Finance Review
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - Dec 5 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Beginning farmers and ranchers
  • Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition
  • Farm profitability
  • Generational farmers


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