College graduates who are pursuing careers in agriculture are in line for expanded student debt relief under a measure approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

The new measure is meant to give more students eligibility under a program meant to encourage young people to becomes farmers. 

The law addresses eligibility for the New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program. Previously, being able to apply for funds required an applicant to have graduated from college within the previous two years.

The new law removes that eligibility requirement, replacing it with a qualification that an applicant must not have previously farmed for more than 10 consecutive years. 

The move is meant to make more people eligible for a program that provides grant awards for students who have received an undergraduate degree from a New York state college or university. 

“With the average age of a New York farmer ever increasing, the future of our food supply and our ability to keep this leading economic driver in place largely depends on helping the next generation of farmers enter this extremely high cost-to-enter field,” Sen. Michelle Hinchey, who sponsored the measure with Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, said. “I thank Governor Hochul for signing my bill with Assemblymember Lupardo expanding eligibility through the NYS Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program, making it more feasible for young people to start a career in farming while having more money in the bank to invest in their businesses. I’ll continue to bolster smart economic incentives that put a young and diverse generation of farmers in the best position to lead the charge of New York’s top industry.”

The agriculture industry in New York has struggled to retain young people. As a result, the number of family run farms have been reduced and many sold off to other businesses.  

“Given the increasing age of many of New York’s farmers, it’s important for us to encourage the next generation by minimizing one of the barriers to entry," Lupardo said. "Expanding access to the loan forgiveness incentive program demonstrates our support for young farmers on whom the future of farming depends. I’d like to thank Senator Hinchey for her partnership and Governor Hochul for her support of this important initiative.”