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IPFS News Link • Agriculture

Over 140,000 Farms Lost In 5 Years

•, By Daniel Munch

Only 1.88% of acres operated and 1% of farm operations were classified under a non-family corporate farm structure.

Conducted every five years, the Census of Agriculture collects data on land use and ownership, producer characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures. USDA defines a farm as an operation that produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the census year.

While the number of farm operations and acres operated declined, the value of agricultural production increased, rising from $389 billion in 2017 to $533 billion in 2022 (40% nominally and 17% adjusted for inflation). These updated numbers highlight the continuing trend of fewer operations farming fewer acres of land but producing more each year.

In addition to Ag Census data, USDA releases survey-based estimates on farm numbers once every year. Using this annual survey data dating back to 1950, the trend of fewer operations farming fewer acres becomes even more obvious. Since 1950, the number of farm operations has declined by 3.75 million (66%) and the number of acres farmed declined by 323 million (27%) – slightly less than twice the size of Texas. Technological advancements that have increased productivity, such as feed conversion ratios in livestock and yield per acre in crops, have allowed farmers and ranchers to produce more with less even as the U.S. population more than doubled, going from 159 million in 1950 to 340 million in 2023, and the global population more than tripled (2.5 billion to 8 billion) during the same period.

Farm Operations

Between 2017 and 2022 all states but five (Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island) lost farms. Texas had the largest numerical loss – nearly 18,000 farm operations – followed by Oklahoma (-8,153) and Missouri (-7,433). Iowa gained the most farm operations (+807) followed distantly by Alaska (+183). In terms of percentage loss of farm operations, New Mexico experienced the largest decline (-16.2%) followed by Arizona (-12.5%) and Wyoming (-11.7%). Alaska's 183-farm gain was the largest percent increase at 18.5%. Though the presence of regional trends in farm operation losses appears limited, drought conditions that battered much of the West in 2021 and 2022 may be responsible, in part, for higher farm loss percentages in those states. Across states that gained farms, most were within the category of earning over $1 million in sales except in Alaska where the biggest gains were in farms earning between $5,000 and $50,000.