Farming and Farm Income

American agriculture and rural life underwent a tremendous transformation in the 20th century. Early 20th century agriculture was labor intensive, and it took place on many small, diversified farms in rural areas where more than half the U.S. population lived. Agricultural production in the 21st century, on the other hand, is concentrated on a smaller number of large, specialized farms in rural areas where less than a fourth of the U.S. population lives. The following material provides an overview of these trends, as well as trends in farm sector and farm household incomes.


U.S. gross cash farm income relatively stable since 2016

Gross cash farm income (GCFI) is annual income before expenses and includes cash receipts, farm-related income, and Government farm program payments. GCFI is forecast at $431 billion in 2020, versus $333 billion (inflation-adjusted 2020 dollars) in 2000, with the increase across time largely because of higher cash receipts. Since 2016, GCFI has been relatively stable.

U.S. net farm income forecast to increase slightly in 2020

Gross farm income reflects the total value of agricultural output plus Government farm program payments. Net farm income (NFI) reflects income after expenses from production in the current year and is calculated by subtracting farm expenses from gross farm income. NFI considers both cash and noncash income and expenses. Inflation-adjusted net farm income is forecast to increase 1.4 percent in 2020, to $96.7 billion. Inflation-adjusted farm production expenses are projected to increase 1.1 percent in 2020.

Corn and soybeans accounted for over 40 percent of all U.S. crop receipts in 2018

Crop cash receipts totaled $196.2 billion in 2018. Receipts from corn and soybeans accounted for 43.9 percent of the total.

Cattle/calves accounted for nearly 40 percent of 2018 U.S. animal/product receipts

Cash receipts for animals and animal products totaled $176.5 billion in 2018. Cattle/calf receipts accounted for 38 percent of that total, while poultry/egg receipts accounted for 26 percent and dairy receipts 20 percent.

Last updated: Wednesday, February 05, 2020

For more information, contact: Kathleen Kassel