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Farm populations targeted by USDA programs

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The 2008 Farm Act established or modified several USDA farm programs to increase the participation of beginning farmers or ranchers, women and minority principal operators (so-called socially disadvantaged farmers), and limited-resource farmers (based on their low farm sales and household income), In 2010, 39 percent of all family farms were classified as one or more of these targeted farm groups. They are less likely to participate in government farm payment programs than other farm households (25 compared to 42 percent) and they receive a small share (28 percent) of the total payments relative to their numbers (39 percent of all family farms). However, the share of payments they receive is on par with their share of the total value of agricultural products they produce (17 compared to 16 percent). This chart appears in Beginning Farmers, Demographics, and Labor Allocations, part of the Farm Household Economics and Well-Being topic on the ERS website, updated November 2011.

Beginning farmers are located across the country

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

USDA defines beginning farmers and ranchers as those who have operated a farm or ranch for 10 years or less either as a sole operator or with others who have operated a farm or ranch for 10 years or less. Beginning farmers are located across the country. In some counties, more than half of all farms are beginning farms. A variety of factors affect the share of farmers classified as beginning in any particular county. Access to farmland affects the number of beginning farmers, and access is affected by competition for land. Urbanization also affects resource allocations for beginning farms, many of which rely on proximity to off-farm job opportunities and access to specialized farm markets. This map is found in the ERS report, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, EIB-53, May 2009.

Small farms with direct sales often engage in other onfarm activities

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Small farms (those with less than $50,000 annual sales) accounted for about 85% of all farms reporting direct sales of food to consumers in 2007 (about 116,000 farms). Within this group, direct sales accounted for over 35 percent of total farm sales, on average. Bundling other farm income generating activities (separate from basic commodity production) with direct food sales appears to be an important strategy for small farms. For example, 49 percent of all small farms engaged in organic production also reported direct sales to consumers, as did 33 percent of all small farms participating in community supported agriculture, and 28 percent of all small farms that produced value-added goods on the farm, such as processed products. Small farms appear to exploit complementarities between these activities and direct-sales ventures. For the other onfarm activities, the link with direct sales does not appear as strong. For example, only 8 percent of all small farms operating agritourism enterprises also sold directly to consumers. This chart is found in the ERS report, Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, ERR-97, May 2010.

Farms involved in local food sales differ from those that do not sell food locally

Monday, December 19, 2011

Farms reporting local food sales require more operator time, on average, than do farms without local food sales. The average farm with local food sales required 1.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) operator jobs (1 FTE job equals 2,000 hours worked annually), compared with 0.9 FTE operator job for farms without local food sales. This pattern held across farm sizes up to $250,000 in annual sales. For larger farms, there was no difference between the average number of FTE operators on farms with and without local food sales. Since the operators of large farms often market local food through intermediated channels, they may not face the same degree of labor intensity as operators selling directly to consumers. This chart is found in the December 2011 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

Urban areas prove profitable for farmers selling directly to consumers

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Urban markets seem to be especially targeted by farmers engaged in direct sales. Fully 84 percent of farms that sell directly to consumers are located in metropolitan counties or in adjacent rural counties, and these farms accounted for 89 percent of the direct sales income reported by farm operators in 2007. Average direct sales value per farm decreased for farms located progressively farther from urban centers: from $10,987 for farms located in metropolitan counties, to $6,767 for farms in adjacent rural counties, and to $6,090 for farms in remote rural counties. This chart was first published in the September 2010 issue of Amber Waves magazine.