Features, Findings, & Statistics

  • Statistic

    U.S. Cropland Is Consolidating Into Larger Farms

    Cropland in the United States has shifted to larger farms. Large crop farms (with 2,000 acres or more) accounted for 36 percent of U.S. cropland in 2012, compared to 15 percent in 1987. Most of that cropland shifted from midsize crop farms (with 200 to 999 acres). Midsize farms operated 47 percent of U.S. cropland in 1987, but that share fell to 29 percent by 2012.
  • Statistic

    A Primer on Land Use in the United States

    Land use and land-use change have important economic and environmental implications for commodity production and trade, soil and water conservation, and other policy issues. The ERS Major Land Uses (MLU) series is the longest running, most comprehensive accounting of all major uses of public and private land in the United States. The U.S. land area totals just under 2.3 billion acres.
  • Finding

    Tax Policy Can Alter Farm Asset Investment Decisions

    Farming requires a substantial investment in assets such as barns, machinery, and equipment. Two IRS provisions, section 179 and bonus depreciation, allow farms (and all businesses) to deduct the cost of these assets in their first year of service. These deductions can be used together to accelerate the recovery of the asset’s cost, thereby reducing a farmer’s taxable income sooner than otherwise.
  • Finding

    Study Finds Crop Insurance Has Small Effect on Environmental Quality

    Crop insurance can help protect farmers from large losses resulting from crop failure or unusually large drops in crop prices. Subsidized crop insurance makes crop production less risky and more profitable. Recent ERS research suggests that crop insurance has small effects on environmental quality in the Corn Belt region.
  • Feature

    Gathering Experimental Evidence To Improve the Design of Agricultural Programs

    Policymakers considering new programs, or novel ways of delivering program services, often have limited information on how actual or potential participants will react to the changes. Economic experiments can offer evidence to help inform these design decisions, and may lead to improvements in existing programs or policies that benefit farmers and others.
  • Feature

    Examining Farm Sector and Farm Household Income

    The U.S. farm sector represents about 2.1 million farms. Together, these farms operate more than 900 million acres and support more than 6 million people living in the associated farm households. This article discusses the long-term trends in farm sector and farm household income, and includes estimates for 2016.
  • Finding

    Applications for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Program Increased After the Agricultural Act of 2014

    A recent ERS report examined impacts of the Buy-Up coverage addition to the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) on expected payments, producers' risk reduction, and NAP enrollment by type of producer and crops.
  • Feature

    Farmers Employ Strategies To Reduce Risk of Drought Damages

    Farmers can improve their drought resilience by making different crop choices, enrolling in crop insurance and other farm risk management programs, and investing in soil health. USDA conservation programs—intended primarily to improve on-site and off-site environmental quality—may also help producers adapt to drought risk.
  • Feature

    Mergers and Competition in Seed and Agricultural Chemical Markets

    Under recent merger proposals, the six global firms that dominate private agricultural chemical and seed research and production would be reduced to four. The mergers are subject to antitrust reviews in both the U.S. and the EU. The reviews will evaluate the likely effects of the mergers on specific seed and agricultural chemical markets, prices, and innovation.
  • Finding

    Dedicating Agricultural Land to Energy Crops Would Shift Land Use

    Crops dedicated for use in energy production, such as switchgrass, are potential renewable sources for liquid fuels or bioelectricity. However, demand for switchgrass is low at the current cost of growing and converting it into useful energy, so markets do not presently exist for large-scale use of this resource.
  • Finding

    Nearly 14,000 USDA Microloans Issued Between 2013 and 2015

    In 2013-15, 89 percent of USDA/FSA Microloans went to recipients from targeted groups (beginning farmers and ranchers, women, minorities, and veterans). Also, in 2013-15, new FSA direct loan borrowers received a majority of Microloans.
  • Statistic

    Large Family Farms Continue To Dominate U.S. Agricultural Production

    Large-scale family farms—those with at least $1 million in annual sales—made up only 2.9 percent of all U.S. farms in 2015 but contributed 42 percent of total production.
  • Feature

    Farm Households Experience High Levels of Income Volatility

    For many farm households, income varies considerably from year to year and may even be negative; farm household income volatility is driven mostly by farm income, which is more volatile than off-farm income. Total household income is more volatile on larger farms than on smaller farms, and crop farms have more volatile household income than livestock farms.
  • Feature

    Managing Agricultural Risk Under Different Scenarios: Selected 2014 Farm Act Programs

    The 2014 Farm Act introduced several new programs for crop and livestock producers. A recent ERS study analyzed how these programs provide options for risk management under different scenarios.
  • Statistic

    Energy Consumption and Production in Agriculture

    A new ERS infographic looks at energy production and consumption in U.S. agriculture.
  • Feature

    Precision Agriculture Technologies and Factors Affecting Their Adoption

    Three common precision agricultural information technologies are global positioning system (GPS) guidance systems, GPS yield and soil monitors/maps, and variable-rate input application technologies (VRT). Research shows these technologies had similar positive, but small, impacts on corn profits of between 1 and 3 percent in 2010.
  • Finding

    The Number of Midsize Farms Declined From 1992 to 2012, But Their Household Finances Remain Strong

    Between 1992 and 2012, the number of U.S. midsize farms declined by about 5 percent—or just over 6,100 farms. In the same period, midsize farm households have seen their finances improve, with household income doubling and off-farm income tripling in real terms.
  • Feature

    U.S. Agricultural R&D in an Era of Falling Public Funding

    U.S. private sector funding in food and agricultural R&D has risen rapidly over the last decade, surpassing public sector funding. Falling public sector funding for agricultural R&D in the U.S. and greater spending by some other nations have reduced the U.S. share in public agricultural R&D worldwide.
  • Finding

    Share of Farm Businesses Receiving Lease and Royalty Income From Energy Production Varies Across Regions

    In 2012, 35 percent of active farm and ranch land was in counties overlaying a shale play (shale counties). In 2014, about 6 percent of U.S. farm businesses averaged $56,000 in lease and royalty payments from energy production.
  • Statistic

    Productivity Growth Is Still the Major Driver in Growing U.S. Agricultural Output

    To monitor the U.S. farm sector’s performance, ERS develops total factor productivity (TFP) statistics measured as total agricultural output per unit of aggregate input, with each adjusted for price changes. Total factor productivity measures changes in the efficiency with which inputs are transformed into output.
  • Finding

    For Beginning Farmers, Business Survival Rates Increase With Scale and With Direct Sales to Consumers

    Beginning farmers—those who have managed a farm or ranch for 10 years or less—generally have lower rates of business survival than more established farm operators. According to Census of Agriculture data, only 48.1 percent of beginning farmers having positive sales in 2007 also reported positive sales in 2012, compared with 55.7 percent of all farms.
  • Feature

    Land Acquisition and Transfer in U.S. Agriculture

  • Feature

    Farm Bill Income Cap for Program Payment Eligibility Affects Few Farms

    The 2014 Farm Act revised the maximum income limitations (the income caps) that determine eligibility for most commodity and conservation programs and payments by replacing the separate limits on farm and nonfarm income specified in the 2008 Farm Act with a single total adjusted gross income cap of $900,000.
  • Statistic

    Trends in Farm Sector Debt Vary by Type of Debt and Lender

    Following a period of decline due to the farm financial crisis in the 1980s, farm sector debt has trended upward since the mid-1990s but at a slower pace than growth in the 1970s. However, after multiple years of falling net farm income and tempered expectations for farm sector asset values, there is increased focus on farm debt and comparisons to the farm financial crisis after the 1980s.
  • Finding

    Cost Savings From Precision Agriculture Technologies on U.S. Corn Farms

    Information-based technologies are growing in popularity with farmers because their use can lead to closer monitoring of farm production management decisions and possible cost savings. According to USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey, four technologies are the most commonly used: yield mapping, soil mapping, auto-guidance machinery steering, and variable-rate technologies.