The 2012 survey also shows 94 percent of the nation’s young farmers and ranchers say they are better off than they were five years ago. Last year, 90 percent reported being better off.

More than 96 percent considered themselves lifetime farmers, while 98 percent would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. The informal survey reveals that 92 percent believe their children will be able to follow in their footsteps.

The survey shows that America’s young farmers and ranchers are committed environmental stewards, with 61 percent using conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.

In addition, computers and the Internet are vital tools for the nation’s young farmers and ranchers, with 93 percent surveyed reporting using a computer in their farming operation. Nearly all of those surveyed, 99 percent, have access to the Internet. High-speed Internet is used by 79 percent of those surveyed, with 20 percent relying on a satellite connection and just over 1 percent turning to dialup.

The popular social media site, Facebook, is used by 79 percent of those surveyed who use the Internet. The most popular use of the Internet in the survey is to gather news and agricultural information, with 82 percent turning to it for that use.

Finally, the survey points out that 71 percent of YF&R members consider communicating with consumers a formal part of their jobs.

“Young farmers and ranchers are becoming more comfortable when it comes to reaching out to consumers to participate in conversations they are having about food,” Cope said. “It’s important that we as farmers continue to explore and use all available tools to connect with consumers, whether that means social media platforms, personal outreach through farm tours, agri-tourism, farmers’ markets, or some combination,” he said.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said the annual YF&R survey points out that the future of U.S. agriculture is in good hands.

“Our young farmers and ranchers have the know-how and tenacity to ensure that the best days are ahead for our country and agriculture,” Stallman said. “They are the future of American agriculture.”

The informal survey of young farmers and ranchers, ages 18-35, was conducted at AFBF’s 2012 YF&R Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., in February. The purpose of Farm Bureau’s YF&R program is to help younger Farm Bureau members learn more about agriculture, network with other farmers and become future leaders in agriculture and Farm Bureau.