Farming and Farm Income

U.S. 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 provides an overview of these trends, as well as trends in farm sector and farm household incomes.

The number of U.S. farms continues slow decline

After peaking at 6.8 million farms in 1935, the number of U.S. farms fell sharply until the early 1970s. Rapidly falling farm numbers during the earlier period reflected growing productivity in agriculture and increased nonfarm employment opportunities. Since 1982, the number of U.S. farms has continued to decline, but much more slowly. In the most recent survey, there were 1.89 million U.S. farms in 2023, down 7 percent from the 2.04 million found in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Similarly, acres of land in farms continued a downward trend with 879 million acres in 2023, down from 900 million acres in 2017. The average farm size was 464 acres in 2023, only slightly greater than the 440 acres recorded in the early 1970s.

Last updated: Thursday, February 29, 2024

For more information, contact: Kathleen Kassel