African-American-operated farms were smaller and more focused on livestock than other farms in 2018–20

Vertical bar chart showing farm size and production value of U.S. farms by race of principal operator and commodity type between 2018 and 2020.

Researchers at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) evaluated characteristics of farms operated by African Americans using data from the 2018–20 Agricultural Resource Management Surveys (ARMS). The researchers observed that farm size and commodities produced differed across race. During 2018–20, the average African-American-operated farm was less than one-third the size of other farms. African-American farms operated an average of 109 acres compared with an average of 408 acres for all other farms. The choice of commodities produced also varied by race. About 83 percent of African-American farms were livestock farms, with livestock production making up more than half of their production value. In contrast, about 66 percent of other farms were livestock farms. The differences in farm size and commodities produced were found to contribute to differences in farm production values. On average, total value of production was about $29,000 for African-American farms, while that of farms with principal operators of other races was about $177,000. Together, these factors contributed to the average African-American farm earning lower net farm income than other farms. This article is drawn from the ERS Amber Waves article Farm Size, Specialization Are Among Factors Influencing Financial Performance of African-American Farms in United States, published in February 2024.

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