Publications

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  • Agricultural Income and Finance Outlook, 2011 Edition

    AIS-91, December 14, 2011

    Net farm income is forecast at $100.9 billion in 2011, up 28 percent from 2010 and 50 percent higher than the 10-year average of $67.4 billion for 2001-2010. Net cash income at $109.8 billion would be a nominal record, 19 percent above the prior record attained in 2010. Net value added is expected to increase by almost $24 billion in 2011 to $153.7 billion. Production expenses are forecast to jump substantially in 2011 to a record nominal high exceeding $300 billion. Prices paid indexes drive the forecast increase. Inflation-adjusted 2011 production expenses will exceed the previous peak reached in 1979. The values of farm business sector assets and equity (assets minus debt) are forecast to rise in 2011, while farm debt is forecast to decline from 2010 levels. Farm sector asset values are expected to rise by 6.8 percent in 2011 as the values of land and farm buildings, crop inventories, purchased inputs, machinery and equipment and financial assets are all expected to rise in 2011. Farm sector debt is expected to fall from about $247 billion in 2010 to about $243 billion in 2011. The decline in real estate debt is expected to be about $4 billion (-3.0 percent). The farm business sector's debt-to-asset ratio is expected to decline to 10.4 percent and debt-to-equity is expected to decline to 11.6 percent in 2011, indicating that the farm sector's solvency position remains strong. Average net cash income for farm businesses is expected to increase throughout most of the country in 2011, although income growth is not as high as experienced in 2010. High commodity prices for both crops and livestock are driving these increases, despite increasing expenses in all categories other than labor. Except for poultry, high prices in 2011 have helped the livestock sector to continue the strong performance of 2010 despite an environment of increasing feed expenses. Driven by the gains in most crop and livestock farms, all regions other than the Southern Seaboard are expected to experience at least a 7-percent improvement in average net cash income over 2010. Median farm household income increased by 3.7 percent in 2010 to $54,162 and is forecast to be higher in 2011. Bolstered by higher farm asset values, the balance sheet of farm households improved in 2010, with median net worth increasing by 6.5 percent to $576,745.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms: 2014 Edition

    EIB-133, December 22, 2014

    Farming is still an industry of family businesses. Ninety-seven percent of farms are family farms, and they account for 85 percent of farm production. Small farms make up 90 percent of the farm count and operate half of the Nation's farmland. Most farm production, however, occurs on midsize and large-scale family farms.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms: 2015 Edition

    EIB-146, December 08, 2015

    Most U.S. farms (99 percent) are family operations. Small family farms make up 90 percent of the U.S. farm count but produce 22 percent of farm output. Midsize and large-scale farms (9 percent of farms) produce 68 percent of farm output.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms: Assorted Sizes, Types, and Situations

    AIB-769, May 25, 2001

    This report describes a farm typology developed by the Economic Research Service (ERS), which categorizes farms into more homogeneous groups than classifications based on sales volume alone, producing a more effective policy development tool. The typology is used to describe U.S. farm structure.

  • Among Women Farmers, Different Specializations Dominate Farm Numbers, Farm Sales

    Amber Waves, May 06, 2013

    Most women-operated farms specialize in grazing livestock or miscellaneous crops, but these are mostly small operations that contribute relatively little to the total sales of women-operated farms. Most sales by women-operated farms come from farms specializing in poultry and eggs, specialty crops, grains and oilseeds, and dairy.

  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

    EIB-53, May 15, 2009

    Beginning farmers and ranchers accounted for 10 percent of the sector's total value of production in 2007. ERS provides an overview of their characteristics and the farm businesses they operate.

  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers and the Agricultural Act of 2014

    Amber Waves, June 02, 2014

    The Agricultural Act of 2014 continues the trend of assisting beginning farmers, and includes increased funding for beginning farmer development. Read about it in the June issue of Amber Waves magazine.

  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers at a Glance

    EB-22, January 30, 2013

    In 2011, beginning farms and ranches accounted for 22 percent of the 2 million U.S. family farms and 10 percent of the value of agricultural production by family farms. How do beginning farmers and ranchers compare to established ones?

  • Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010

    ERR-209, May 24, 2016

    Of 17 organic food products ERS analyzed, most retail price premiums fluctuated between 2004 and 2010, neither increasing nor decreasing steadily. Only three products-fresh spinach, canned beans, and coffee-showed steady premium decreases.

  • Changes to the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program Under the Agricultural Act of 2014: Their Potential Risk Reduction Impacts

    EIB-172, May 25, 2017

    ERS researchers find that the new NAP Buy-Up coverage can mitigate low-yield risk more than the NAP Basic and slightly increase a farmer's revenue

  • Characteristics and Risk Management Needs of Limited-Resource and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

    AIB-733, April 01, 1997

    Small U.S. farms and those run by socially disadvantaged minority operators tend not to purchase insurance or to participate in insurance-type programs operated by USDA. This report traces the lack of use of such risk management measures to several characteristics of such farmers, who include females, blacks, American Indians, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and operators of Spanish origin. These farmers tend, more than the typical U.S. farm, to raise livestock rather than crops, and there are no government-sponsored insurance-type programs for livestock.

  • Characteristics of Women Farm Operators and Their Farms

    EIB-111, April 29, 2013

    The number of women farm operators has tripled in the last three decades. From 1982 to 2007, the number of female-operated farms increased by184,000, while male-operated farms declined by 220,800.

  • Data Feature: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Who Are They?

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2009

    Beginning farmers and ranchers face many challenges. High land prices and increasing equipment costs can serve as barriers to entry for those wishing to become farmers. The 2008 Farm Act requires USDA to develop several programs designed to provide additional support to beginning farmers, including increased conservation financial assistance and an expanded loan program.

  • Exploring Alternative Farm Definitions: Implications for Agricultural Statistics and Program Eligibility

    EIB-49, March 20, 2009

    Meeting agricultural policy and statistical goals requires a definition of U.S. agriculture's basic unit, the farm. However, these goals can be at odds with one another. USDA defines "farm" very broadly to comprehensively measure agricultural activity. Consequently, most establishments classified as farms in the United States produce very little, while most production occurs on a small number of much larger operations. While desirable for obtaining comprehensive national coverage, measurement and analysis based on the current definition can provide misleading characterizations of farms and farm structure in the United States. Additionally, more stringent requirements have been proposed for farms to qualify for Federal agricultural program benefits. This analysis outlines the structure of U.S. farms, discusses the current farm definition, evaluates several potential criteria that have been proposed to define target farms more precisely, and examines how these criteria affect both statistical coverage and program eligibility.

  • Fewer Farms on Reservations Join Conservation Program, But Make Larger Conservation Investments

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Farms on reservations are less likely to participate in EQIP than farms elsewhere. In States that contain American Indian reservations, about 4 percent of EQIP contracts and 6 percent of funding in 2006 went to farms on reservations. Participating reservation farms, however, tend to have larger EQIP contracts than other farms.

  • For Beginning Farmers, Business Survival Rates Increase With Scale and With Direct Sales to Consumers

    Amber Waves, September 06, 2016

    Beginning farmers—those who have managed a farm or ranch for 10 years or less—generally have lower rates of business survival than more established farm operators. According to Census of Agriculture data, only 48.1 percent of beginning farmers having positive sales in 2007 also reported positive sales in 2012, compared with 55.7 percent of all farms.

  • Nearly 14,000 USDA Microloans Issued Between 2013 and 2015

    Amber Waves, March 06, 2017

    In 2013-15, 89 percent of USDA/FSA Microloans went to recipients from targeted groups (beginning farmers and ranchers, women, minorities, and veterans). Also, in 2013-15, new FSA direct loan borrowers received a majority of Microloans.

  • Participation in Conservation Programs by Targeted Farmers: Beginning, Limited-Resource, and Socially Disadvantaged Operators' Enrollment Trends

    EIB-62, December 07, 2009

    Beginning, limited-resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers make up as much as 40 percent of all U.S. farms. Some Federal conservation programs contain provisions that encourage participation by such "targeted" farmers and the 2008 Farm Act furthered these efforts. This report compares the natural resource characteristics, resource issues, and conservation treatment costs on farms operated by targeted farmers with those of other participants in the largest U.S. working-lands and land retirement conservation programs. Some evidence shows that targeted farmers tend to operate more environmentally sensitive land than other farmers, have different conservation priorities, and receive different levels of payments. Data limitations preclude a definitive analysis of whether efforts to improve participation by targeted farmers hinders or enhances the conservation programs' ability to deliver environmental benefits cost effectively. But the different conservation priorities among types of farmers suggest that if a significantly larger proportion of targeted farmers participates in these programs, the programs' economic and environmental outcomes could change.

  • Profile of Hired Farmworkers, A 2008 Update

    ERR-60, July 11, 2008

    ERS examines the size, importance, and composition of the hired farmworker force, updating information published in 2000. These workers make up a third of the farm labor

  • Profit Margin Increases With Farm Size

    Amber Waves, February 02, 2015

    Given the broad USDA definition of a farm, most U.S. farms are not profitable as ongoing businesses. One commonly used measure of profitability is the farm’s operating profit margin (OPM), the ratio of operating profit to gross farm income.