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 expected to increase in 2021

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 $486 billion in 2021, versus $347 billion (inflation-adjusted 2021 dollars) in 2001, with the increase across time largely because of higher cash receipts. If forecasts are realized, GCFI would increase 7.3 percent in 2021 relative to 2020, and would be the highest since 2014.

U.S. net farm income forecast to increase in 2021

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 by 15.3 percent in 2021 to $113.0 billion—the highest since 2013. Inflation-adjusted farm production expenses are projected to increase by 3.5 percent in 2021.

Corn, soybeans accounted for over 40 percent of all U.S. crop cash receipts in 2020

Crop cash receipts totaled $192.2 billion in 2020. Receipts from corn and soybeans accounted for 43.4 percent of the total.

Cattle/calves was the largest portion of U.S. animal/animal product receipts in 2020

Cash receipts for animals and animal products totaled $165.0 billion in 2020. Cattle/calves receipts made up 38.2 percent of that total, dairy receipts accounted for 24.6 percent, and poultry and eggs receipts came in at 21.5 percent.