Census of Agriculture shows continued decline in number of US farms

The 2017 Census of Agriculture released Thursday shows the amount of total land devoted to agricultural use continues to decline in the U.S. and the number of farms is declining.

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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 2.04 million farms and ranches in the U.S. in 2017, down more than 3% from 2012. It said the land devoted to agriculture declined by about 2% to 900.2 million acres from 914.5 million acres in 2012.

“We had really high levels of acreage in the 1980s, and then we ended up putting away 25 million to 30 million acres into the Conservation Reserve Program,” said Joseph Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and a former chief economist at the USDA.

The census shows the average size of farms in 2017 was 441 acres, slightly above 434 acres in the 2012 census. The report indicated 96% of farms and ranches in the nation are family-owned.

Also it shows there were about 273,000 small farms, of 1-9 acres, in 2017, representing just 0.1% of all farmland in the U.S. It added that 85,127 large farms, of 2,000 or more acres, made up nearly 60% of total farmland.

There were 76,865 farms making $1 million or above in 2017 and another 1.56 million operations generating under $50,000. Out of the total value of production of $389 billion in 2017, two-thirds of it came from farms making $1 million or more.

Finally, the average age of agriculture producers was 57.5 in 2012, up 1.2 years from 2012. The latest census also indicated 36% of all producers are female.

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