Every 5 years the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service conducts The Census of Agriculture. The census provides comprehensive, nationwide agricultural data and includes a complete count of US farms and ranches in the United States.
The last complete census was the 2017 Census of Agriculture and the next census will take place in 2022. Key findings from the 2017 census include:
- Both the 1) total amount of land devoted to agricultural use and 2) the number of farms in the United State are declining year by year.
- There were 2.04 million farms and ranches in the U.S. in 2017, down more than 3% from 2012. Texas leads the nation with with over 248,000; Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma and California are also farm-heavy states.
- The average farm size is 441 acres.
- An estimated 70% of US farmland will change hands in the next 20 years, but many family operations do not have a next generation skilled in or willing to continue farming.
Most Farms and Ranches are Family Owned but…
The 2017 census found that 96% of farms and ranches in the nation are family-owned. However, 1.56 million of these operations generated less than $50,000 in 2017. There were 76,865 farms making $1 million or above in 2017.
The truth is that most of the U.S. production of food comes from a relatively few large farm operations. Overall, total value of production in 2017 was $389 billion and two-thirds of it came from large farm operations making $1 million or more. Large and very large family farms produce over 63% of all products sold, while corporate farms produce approximately 21%.
The USDA classifies family farms based on their gross annual sales as follows:
- Very large family farms gross over $500,000
- Large family farms gross between $250,000 and $500,000
- Small family farms gross under $250,000
Types of Farms
The USDA census is fairly liberal in how it defines a farm as it counts any land that grows fruit, vegetable0, animals and crops as long as $1,000 or more of products were raised and sold during the Census year. We used USFarmData.Com for an estimate of what types of farms are currently operating in the US.
– Cattle Growers/Cattle Producers – 316,005
– Dairy Farmers – 63,144
– Hog Growers – 37,443
– Goat Growers – 23,081
– Vegetables Producers – 39376
– Soybean Producers – 352,979
– Fruits Producers – 30,485
– Grain Growers – 66,131