U.S. lost 8,000 farms, million acres in one year
The average farm size continues to tick upward. In 2009 there were 2,169,660 U.S. farms with an average size of 423 acres.
Last year there were 2,060,000 farms in the United States with an average farm size of 442 acres, up one acre from a year earlier.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) differentiates farms by six economic sales classes.
Those classes are created by sales of agricultural products – and the total includes government program payments in the calculation of “sales.”
The agricultural product sales categories used by the agency are: $10,000, $100,000, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000.
Producers were asked during the 2016 survey to report the value of sales based on production during the 2015 calendar year.
What NASS calls “Point Farms” are farms that did not have the required minimum $1,000 in sales for the year to qualify as a farm, but had sufficient crops and livestock to normally have sales of $1,000 or more.
The report noted that Point Farms are assigned a sales class based on the sum of the agricultural point (dollar) values assigned to the quantity of commodities that were produced but not sold.
The most recent 2012 Census of Agriculture showed that 428,810 farms or 20.3 percent of the 2.11 million farms were Point Farms.
These Point Farms operated 63.0 million acres or 6.9 percent of the 914.5 million acres of farmland.
While the overall number of farms declined by 8,000 from a year earlier, the number of farms in the “Sales Class” $250,000 - $499,999 increased.
That was the only sales category of farms in which there was an increase nationally.
The land used in farming, at 911 million acres, was down 1 million acres from 2015.
The USDA’s analysts noted that the biggest changes from a year earlier were that producers with sales of $250,000 to $499,999 operated nearly 1.3 million more acres compared to a year earlier.
They also noted that farmers with agricultural sales of $1 million or more operated 1.01 million fewer acres.
Like the previous year’s survey, this 2016 report showed that nearly 31 percent of all farmland was operated by farms with less than $100,000 in sales and 41 percent of all farmland was operated by farms with sales of $500,000 or more. ■