Number of US farms falls and size increases, census shows

Tom Vilsack calls the survey "a wake-up call"
calendar icon 14 February 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

Farms in the US continued to get larger and the number of farms fell between 2017 and 2022, new data released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The Census of Agriculture, taken every five years, counts and details US farms and is used to shape the nation's farm policies.

There were 1.9 million US farms in 2022, down about 7% from 2.04 million in 2017, the census showed. The number of acres of farmland also fell by about 20 million from 2017.

The average farm size rose from 441 acres (178 hectares) in 2017 to 463 acres (187 hectares) in 2022.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the survey "a wake-up call" at an event at the USDA headquarters on Tuesday.

"This survey (asks) the critical question of whether as a country, are we OK with losing that many farms," he said.

Farm consolidation has been an ongoing concern of USDA. Vilsack speaks often about the need to support smaller farming operations and better distribute farm income, which is concentrated among the largest farms.

The number of US farms has been in steady decline for several decades. Between 1997 and 2017, for instance, the number fell about 8%, or by about 200,000 farms, according to previous census data. That span also saw a decrease in farm acres of 54.5 million, the data shows.

The vast majority of farms - about 1.8 million - are owned or rented by white producers, the census shows. The average age of farmers continues to rise and reached 58.1, up 0.6 year from 2017.

The census showed an uptick in farms adopting renewable energy projects like solar panels, up nearly 30% to 116,700 farms, and wind turbines, up 2% to 14,500 farms.

The USDA defines a farm as any operation that sells more than $1,000 in product annually.

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