As the average age of U.S. farmers and ranchers grows older, and the value of agricultural land and other assets increases, succession and estate planning becomes more important than ever, says Dave Goeller, from the University of Nebraska’s North Central Risk management Education Center.

Presenting at the recent Range Beef Cow Symposium in Mitchell, Nebraska, Goeller said that in 1982, 22 percent of Nebraska farmers were under 35 years of age, while 17 percent were over 65. By 2007, those numbers had shifted dramatically, with just 7 percent of the state’s farmers below the age of 35 and 27 percent older than 65.

During that same period, the total number of Nebraska farm operators declined by 21 percent, farm operators younger than 35 years declined by 75 percent and the number of farm operators older than 65 grew by 49 percent