Securing adequate land to grow crops and raise livestock was the top challenge identified in the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) annual outlook survey of participants in the Young Farmers & Ranchers program, as reported by the AFBF. The issue was also the top challenge cited in last year's survey.

The challenge was identified by 22 percent of respondents, ages 18-35, followed by economic challenges, particularly profitability, which was identified by 15 percent of the respondents.

"For young people today, securing adequate land to begin farming or expand an established farm or ranch is a major challenge," said Jake Carter, AFBF's national Young Farmers & Ranchers committee chair and a farmer from Georgia. "Another major challenge is figuring out how to excel -- not just survive -- in today's economy," he added.

Optimism, despite concerns

Other issues that ranked as top concerns in the annual survey included government regulations and red tape (12 percent); availability of farm labor and related regulations (9 percent); water availability and urbanization of farm land (7 percent each); and health care availability and cost (6 percent).

The 2014 survey revealed that 91 percent of the nation's young farmers and ranchers are more optimistic about farming and ranching than they were five years ago. Last year, 90 percent of those surveyed said they were more optimistic about farming compared to five years ago.

The survey also showed that America's young farmers and ranchers are committed environmental caretakers, with 55 percent using conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.

The future of farming

In a new question on the survey this year, the young farmers and ranchers were asked about their rural entrepreneurship efforts, with 40 percent reporting they had started a new business in the last three years or plan to start one in the near future.

Additionally, more than 91 percent of respondents considered themselves lifetime farmers, with 88 percent hoping to see their children follow in their footsteps.

The survey results were compiled following the AFBF's 2014 Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference in Virginia Beach, Va., in February.