Publications

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  • Younger Beginning Farmers Tend To Operate Larger Farms

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2013

    In 2011, 11 percent of beginning farm operators under age 35 had gross farm sales of $250,000 or more, compared with 6 percent of beginning operators age 35-49 and 1 percent of those age 50 and older. As a result, young beginning farm households tend to earn more on their farm and less off their farm than other beginning farm households.

  • Working the Land With 10 Acres: Small Acreage Farming in the United States

    EIB-123, April 29, 2014

    Small acreage does not necessarily translate into low farm sales. About 17 percent (50,000) of farms with 10 or fewer acres had gross sales of at least $10,000 in 2007, and approximately 6,000 had sales of more than $250,000 that year.

  • USDA Microloans for Farmers: Participation Patterns and Effects of Outreach

    ERR-222, December 30, 2016

    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.

  • U.S. Farmland Ownership, Tenure, and Transfer

    EIB-161, August 25, 2016

    Using data from a new survey, ERS examines U.S. farmland ownership and tenure, how land is acquired and transferred, the characteristics of land rental agreements, and landlord involvement in rented farmland operations.

  • The Revised ERS Farm Typology: Classifying U.S. Farms To Reflect Today's Agriculture

    Amber Waves, May 06, 2013

    Since the release of ERS's farm typology nearly 15 years ago, the U.S. agricultural sector has changed in a number of ways. ERS recently updated the typology to reflect three important trends: commodity price increases, a shift in production to larger farms, and the rapid growth of the use of production contracts among livestock producers.

  • The Relationship Between Patronizing Direct-to-Consumer Outlets and a Household’s Demand for Fruits and Vegetables

    ERR-242, January 24, 2018

    Encouraging a household that does not patronize direct-to-consumer outlets to buy fruits and vegetables directly from farmers once a year could increase the household’s weekly average spending on these items across all outlet types.

  • The Changing Organization and Well-Being of Midsize U.S. Farms, 1992-2014

    ERR-219, October 31, 2016

    ERS examines how midsize farms and their households changed from 1992 to 2014 and looks at changes in midsize farm numbers, as well as factors that influence the survival, growth, and well-being of these farms.

  • Support for the Organic Sector Expands in the 2014 Farm Act

    Amber Waves, July 07, 2014

    Organic program provisions in the 2014 Farm Act cover a broad set of objectives—assisting with organic certification costs, expanding organic research and data collection, improving technical assistance and crop insurance, strengthening enforcement of organic regulations, and expanding market opportunities for producers.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2014 Edition

    EIB-132, December 22, 2014

    Most U.S. farms-97 percent in 2011-are family operations. Small family farms make up 90 percent of the count, though midsize and large-scale family farms produce 60 percent of value of production, per ERS's latest Family Farm Report.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2010 Edition

    EIB-66, July 26, 2010

    Most U.S. farms-98 percent in 2007-are family operations, and even the largest farms are predominantly family run. Large-scale family farms and nonfamily farms account for 12 percent of U.S farms but 84 percent of the value of production. In contrast, small family farms make up most of the U.S. farm count but produce a modest share of farm output. Small farms are less profitable than large-scale farms, on average, and their operator households tend to rely on off-farm income for their livelihood. Generally speaking, farm operator households cannot be characterized as low-income when both farm and off-farm income are considered. Nevertheless, limited-resource farms still exist and account for 3 to 12 percent of family farms, depending on how "limited-resource" is defined.

  • Small Farms in the United States: Persistence Under Pressure

    EIB-63, February 18, 2010

    ERS documents the changing distribution and character of small farms as ag production becomes more concentrated. Commercially oriented small farms, those accounting for most small-farm production, continue to decline in number in the face of large-farm competition.

  • Small Acreage Farms in the United States

    Amber Waves, May 05, 2014

    According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, approximately 294,000 farms, or 13 percent of all U.S. farms, operated on 10 or fewer acres. Collectively, these small acreage (SA) farms operated only 0.18 percent of all U.S. farmland in 2007, but were responsible for approximately $9 billion in farm sales, or 3 percent of the U.S. total.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • More Microloans Issued in Regions With Higher Concentrations of Small Farms and Beginning Farmers, Women, and Minorities

    Amber Waves, April 02, 2018

    USDA's Direct Operating Microloans are designed to be more convenient and accessible than traditional Direct Operating Loans (DOLs) for groups such as beginning farmers, veterans, women, and minorities. Although any farmer can apply for a Microloan, FSA reserves 70 percent of its funds for these groups. FSA distributed more Microloans in regions with larger shares of farmers in those groups.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.