Farms Get Bigger Even as the Number of Farms Decline
The number of farms and the amount of acreage designated as farms in the U.S. continues to decline even as the average acres per farm increases, a new report from USDA shows. There were 8,000 fewer farms than the previous year, and a decrease of 1 million acres in production overall (giving us 910 acres), yet the average size per farm increased by an acre.
This dichotomy continues a long-term trend, where the number of farms are declining at a slightly higher rate than the acres being farmed are.
In short, there are fewer farms, but those that remain are getting larger.
USDA broke out the results by sales volume, giving us a closer look at where those trends are strongest. Unfortunately, what is produced on those farms — livestock, fruit, vegetables — is not mentioned in this particular report.
Farm Size Per Operation
The average farm size continued to increase in 2016 as the number of farms declined more than land in farms. Average farm size by sales class are:
- Sales Class $1,000 – $9,999: 84 acres (a decrease)
- Sales Class $10,000 – $99,999: 309 acres (an increase)
- Sales Class $100,000 – $249,999: 896 acres (a decrease)
- Sales Class $250,000 – $499,999: 1,296 acres (an increase)
- Sales Class $500,000 – $999,999: 1,897 acres (an increase)
- Sales Class $1,000,000 or more: 2,656 acres (a decrease)
The Number of Farms Falls Faster Than the Overall Acreage Decreases
The reason individual farms are seeing an increase in size on average is because acreage isn’t disappearing as quickly as farms are.
When looking at different farm income groups, the story can change, depending on the group of farms profiled.
For example, farms that earn between $500,000 and $1 million saw a 0.6% decrease in the number of farms, even as acreage used for farming increased slightly. In contrast, the largest group of farms, those pulling in more than $1 million annually, saw acreage decrease faster than the number of farms declined.