58 / SEEDWORLD.COM DECEMBER 2018 “When baby boomers retire, they take knowledge with them that is difficult for the next generation to learn,” Gunderson says. But they are not exiting all together. As this generation ages, the share of workers age 55 and older — a cohort that’s histori- cally witnessed low labor force participa- tion — is projected to grow 24.8 percent by 2026. Every industry is learning how to adapt, knowing that a major generation is beginning to exit the workforce. There will be new changes accompanying that, but each industry must learn how to make up for the knowledge that exits with the baby boomers and what to do with the knowledge that the next generations (Gen Xers and millennials) have to offer. However, agriculture and the seed industry are a little more unique than other industries. While every industry faces the retirement of a generation, it’s not the biggest problem that agriculture faces when it comes to labor. Gunderson says the biggest challenge facing agriculture is the rapid migration from rural areas into urban centers. “This is happening across the globe,” he says. “Young people before and after marriage want to be in areas where there are more amenities near them, such as good school systems, good art programs and entertainment. But in agriculture, most opportunities that deliver value are in rural areas. It’s difficult to attract talent to those places.” On farms, the challenges stretch even further. Not only is it difficult to find labor, but every season brings a different amount of labor needed. With younger generations flocking to cities, it’s difficult to get even the seasonal labor needed. “Years ago, companies depended on employing and deploying scores of rural high school kids,” explains Jim Schweigert, Gro Alliance president. “This type of work was second nature to them, since many grew up on farms and were used to being in the elements. Today, that pool of rural, high school labor has all but dried up. “Declining rural populations and other factors mean fewer farm kids, of which even fewer are used to manual, agricultural work. Furthermore, our political climate adds uncertainty to migrant laborers who come to the U.S. on work visas or tempo- rary work permits, making it even harder to secure help when you need it.” J. Edward Taylor and Diane Charlton, authors of the “Farm Labor Problem,” write that it’s difficult as countries develop and per-capita incomes rise, because more and more of the workforce move out of agriculture and into non-farm jobs. As countries urbanize, the desire to stay in rural areas and on the farm decreases as better opportunities arise. Source: Employment Projections program, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 1996 2006 2016 2026 WORKING DEMOGRAPHIC BY AGE 16 to 24 24 to 54 55 and older 12% 16% 72% 17% 15% 68% 23% 13% 64% 25% 12% 63% Total Working Population 133,943,000 151,428,000 159,187,000 169,650,000 Another limiting factor in attract- ing talent is the way that businesses are organized. Businesses used to be a structured hierarchy: there was the high manage- ment, middle management and lower workers. However, research has shown that flatter organizations tend to be more customer responsive. “Organizations have restructured to become flatter,” Gunderson says. “They’ve cut out that layer of middle management in favor of more teams. “Today, a customer might show up at a warehouse with questions, so the warehouse worker needs to understand a customer’s needs.” While this creates more positive cus- tomer interactions, it has its drawbacks. “A layer of middle management creates a pool of in-house talent that you could draw into senior management,” Gunderson explains. “As you get rid of the middle management, you reduce that pool you might need for succession planning.” Longing for Loyalty Another difficulty employers state is the difficulty to find long-term employees or company loyal employees. “Many businesses are mourning the loss of loyalty to a business,” Gunderson says, adding that employees comment that their business isn’t loyal to them.