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.

Most farms are small, but the majority of production value is from large farms

Gross cash farm income (GCFI) includes income from commodity cash receipts, farm-related income, and Federal Government payments. Family farms (where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator) of various types together accounted for 97 percent of U.S. farms in 2022. Small family farms (less than $350,000 in GCFI) accounted for 88 percent of all U.S. farms. Large-scale family farms ($1 million or more in GCFI) accounted for about 3 percent of farms and nearly 52 percent of the value of production.

Most farmers receive off-farm income; small-scale operators depend on it

Median total household income among all farm households ($95,418) exceeded the median total household income for all U.S. households ($74,580) in 2022. Median household income and income from farming increased with farm size and most households earned some income from off-farm employment. About 88 percent of U.S. farms are small family farms, with gross cash farm income less than $350,000. The households operating these farms typically rely on off-farm sources for the majority of their household income. In contrast, the median household operating large-scale farms earned $505,833 in 2022, and most of that came from farming.

Last updated: Thursday, February 29, 2024

For more information, contact: Kathleen Kassel