Just two generations ago, it seemed like everyone either lived on a farm or a ranch, or they knew someone who did. But today, as the number of farm operations, and even acres used for agriculture, continue to fall, that connection is fading.
In one year, from 2021 to 2022, USDA's ERS reported there were 9,350 fewer U.S. farm operations, with a total number for 2022 estimated at 2,002,700. Of those, 50.8% had less than $10,000 in sales for the year.
Total acreage in farmland was estimated at 893,400,000 for 2022, a decrease in one year of 1.9 million acres. The report noted that 41.2% of all farmland is now operated by farms with sales of $500,000 or more. The average farm size in 2022 was 446 acres, largely unchanged from year-earlier numbers.
Going state by state, those with 500 or more fewer farm operations reported between 2021 and 2022 included: California (600 fewer farms); Kansas (900 fewer); Kentucky (600 fewer); Michigan (1,700 fewer); Nebraska (500 fewer); New Mexico (600 fewer); and Texas (1,000 fewer). Only the state of West Virginia saw an increase in number of farms, going from 22,300 in 2021 to 22,500 in 2022.
Owner of Heartland Agricultural Services, Doug Oberst, spoke to DTN about what he's been seeing in Michigan's farm industry and why the number of farms there have been declining. Heartland Agricultural Services is a real estate brokerage and financial consulting business based in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
"There is some validity to those numbers (from USDA) when we talk about the number of farm operations in the state of Michigan dropping," he said. "Part of it is simply that farms continue to consolidate. Michigan has a lot of specialty-type crops, second only to California, and the profitability of those types of crops has allowed for expansion over the last couple of years."
"Generally, our economics are supporting consolidation of these farms right now," said Oberst, noting that he's seen farmers who want to retire taking advantage of economic opportunities. "Overall, I'd say it's been kind of an aligning of the stars for a lot of farm operators."
Victoria Myers can be reached at email@example.com
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