Who couldn’t use a little positive news? Certainly anyone in agriculture could, and thanks to the newest generation agricultural youth there is some to be found.

One would think that after the past couple of years of facing the most volatile markets in history and unattainable profits, those just starting out on the farm or ranch would be the least optimistic. But thankfully, that’s not the case.

For the 18th year, the American Farm Bureau Federation has asked farmers and ranchers, ages 18 to 35, about various aspects of their career choice.

This year’s responses tell us there are still plenty of concerns about such things as profitability, government regulations and activist groups, 80 percent said they are more optimistic than they were five years ago. Even more surprising, 82 percent said they are better off than they were five years ago.

In citing their top three challenges, 24 percent ranked overall profitability as No. 1; followed closely by government regulations at 23 percent. Tying for third was competition from more established farms and ranches, and parents' willingness to share management responsibilities each received 9 percent.

As activist groups become more vocal, 85 percent of these young farmers and ranchers said they worried about the potential impact on their farm and ranch operations; only 7 percent expressed little or no concern. 

There’s also significant apprehension about potential government interventions and regulations, such as cap-and-trade or Environmental Protection Agency rules. Specifically, 79 percent expressed high or very high concern about future climate-change regulations.

It’s not that these young farmers and ranchers are reckless with the environment. In fact, 68 percent said that balancing environmental and economic concerns is important for everyone, including their operations.

A finding that would surprise our urban counterparts, who too often perceive agriculture as looking for a handout, is the fact that 83 percent said farm income should come solely from the marketplace. Only 17 percent said income should be supplemented by government farm program payments.