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  • A Look at the Economic Well-Being of Farm Households

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2008

    ERS researchers have developed a composite measure of economic well-being that accounts for a farm household's pretax income, accumulated marketable wealth, and family size. This relative measure of economic well-being shows that participation in government farm programs and/or off-farm work reduces the likelihood of a farm household being "lower income and lower wealth." The role of education, among other factors considered, was more important to a farm household's economic well-being if the household was located in a metro rather than a nonmetro area.

  • Agricultural Income and Finance Outlook, 2009 Edition

    AIS-88, December 22, 2009

    All three measures of U.S. farm income are projected to decline in 2009-net farm income is projected to decline by 34.5 percent, net cash income by 28.4 percent, and net value added by 20 percent. Considerable uncertainty surrounds the forecasts of farm assets, debt, and equity in 2009, given the volatility of commodity, energy/input, and financial markets. The overall level of farm-business equity capital is expected to fall in 2009, as farm-sector asset values decline by 3.5 percent. Farm debt is expected to remain steady at $239 billion in 2009. Farm financial ratios monitoring liquidity, efficiency, solvency, and profitability show that the sector's financial performance in 2008-09, while slightly worse than in 2007, is quite favorable overall when compared to the 1980s and 1990s. Average net cash income for farm businesses (intermediate and commercial operations, including non-family farms) is projected to be $61,578 in 2009. This would be 10.6 percent below the 2008 estimate of $68,876. The projected change in income prospects for farm businesses will not affect all farm operations in the same manner or to the same degree. In 2009, the largest declines in farm-business income are forecast for livestock farms, particularly dairy. Farm-operator household income is forecast to be $76,065, down 3.5 percent from 2008. Household earnings from off-farm sources are projected to be similar to 2008.

  • Agricultural Income and Finance Outlook, 2010 Edition

    AIS-90, December 15, 2010

    Net farm income is forecast at $81.6 billion in 2010, up 31 percent from 2009 and 26 percent higher than the 10-year average of $64.8 billion for 2000 to 2009. Net cash income at $92.5 billion would be a nominal record, 2.3 percent above the prior record attained in 2008. Net value added is expected to increase by almost $20 billion in 2010 to $132.0 billion. Production expenses are forecast to rise moderately, reversing the significant declines seen in 2009. However, nominal total production expenses in 2010 and 2009 still constitute the second- and third-highest totals ever. Farm business equity (assets minus debt) is expected to rise nearly 4 percent, largely due to an expected 3-percent increase in the value of farm business real estate and a 2-percent decline in farm business debt. The farm business sector's debt-to-asset ratio is expected to decline to 11.3 percent and the debt-to-equity ratio is expected to decline to 12.8 percent in 2010, indicating that the farm sector's solvency position remains strong. Average net cash income for farm businesses is expected to increase throughout much of the country in 2010. The expected strong recovery in dairy, hog, and cattle receipts will result in much higher average net cash incomes for farm businesses in the Northern Crescent, Basin and Range, and Prairie Gateway. In the Northern Crescent, where dairy is a prominent commodity, average net cash income for farm businesses is forecast to increase by over 58 percent. Incomes are expected to be almost 50 percent higher in 2010 for farm businesses in the Basin and Range region where cattle are an important commodity, a region that showed the Average farm household income of principal farm operators-from farm and off-farm sources-is forecast to be $83,194 in 2010, up 7.8 percent from 2009. This contrasts with the change for the 2008 to 2009 period, when average farm household income declined by 3.3 percent.

  • 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.

  • Agriculture Risk Coverage Program Proves More Popular Than the Supplemental Coverage Option

    Amber Waves, January 12, 2016

    The 2014 Farm Act provides eligible farmers new commodity support programs, including Agricultural Risk Coverage, Supplemental Coverage Option, and Price Loss Coverage. Findings reveal how various combinations of the programs affect producer revenues, producer well-being, and expected program costs.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms, 2007 Edition

    EIB-26, June 01, 2007

    American farms encompass a wide range of sizes, ownership structures, and business types, but most farms are still family farms. Family farms account for 98 percent of farms and 85 percent of production. Although most farms are small and own most of the farmland, production has shifted to very large farms. Farms with sales of $1 million or more make up less than 2 percent of all farms, but they account for 48 percent of farm product sales. Most of these million-dollar farms are family farms. Because small-farm households rely on off-farm work for most of their income, general economic policies, such as tax or economic development policy, can be as important to them as traditional farm policy.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms, 2010 Edition

    EIB-67, July 26, 2010

    ERS provides comprehensive information including number and size of U.S. farms, characteristics of operators, finances of farm businesses and households, and geographic distribution of farms.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms, 2016 Edition

    EIB-164, December 06, 2016

    Family farms comprise 99 percent of U.S. farms, accounting for 89 percent of production. Small farms make up 90 percent of farms, operating nearly half of farmland. Still, large family farms accounted for 42 percent of production in 2015.

  • 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: Structure and Finances

    EIB-13, May 15, 2006

    American farms vary widely in size and other characteristics, but farming is still an industry of family businesses. Ninety-eight percent of farms are family farms, and they account for 86 percent of farm production. Very small farms are growing in number, and small family farms continue to own most farmland. But production is shifting toward very large family farms. Because small-farm households receive most of their income from off-farm work, general economic policies-such as tax policy or economic development policy-can be as important to them as traditional farm policy.

  • America’s Diverse Family Farms: 2017 Edition

    EIB-185, December 15, 2017

    99% of U.S. farms are family farms, accounting for 90% of production. Small family farms make up 90% of all farms and operate over half of farmland. Still, large family farms accounted for the largest share of farm production, 45%, in 2016.

  • Are Bankruptcies Behind the Drop in Farm Numbers?

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2004

    The number of U.S. farms declined by two-thirds between 1935 and 2002. While this decline is commonly associated with high rates of farm bankruptcy, a new study finds the link between dwindling farm numbers and farm bankruptcies to be weak.

  • Assessing Farm Household Well-Being—Beyond Farmers and Farm Income

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    ERS researchers use data from the USDA and the Federal Reserve to compare farm households and nonfarm households in terms of income and wealth. While farm income is traditionally used as a measure of farm household well-being, the analysis shows that other factors, such as wealth and off-farm income, are important determinants of well-being.

  • 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 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?

  • Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Corn Farms, Including Organic, 2010

    EIB-128, September 17, 2014

    In 2010, the average operating and ownership costs per bushel varied between low- and high-cost corn producers but not among producers with different enterprise sizes. Organic production returns exceeded those for conventional production.

  • 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.

  • Contracts, Markets, and Prices: Organizing the Production and Use of Agricultural Commodities

    AER-837, November 01, 2004

    Demand for specific product attributes is making contracts the choice over traditional spot markets for many livestock commodities and some major crops-e.g., sugar beets, fruit, tomatoes.

  • Decoupled Payments: Household Income Transfers in Contemporary U.S. Agriculture

    AER-822, February 01, 2003

    Decoupled payments are lump-sum income transfers to farm operators that do not depend on current production, factor use, or commodity prices. Such payments are not currently constrained by global trade rules, but many countries argue that they distort production and trade and that their use should be limited. This report examines the U.S. experience with decoupled payments in its Production Flexibility Contracts program under the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act of 1996. The payments have improved the well-being of recipient farm households, enabling them to comfortably increase spending, savings, investments, and leisure but with minimal distortion of U.S. agricultural production and trade. However, farm operators may retain as little as 40 percent of program benefits due to higher land rents. While commercial farms received the largest share of decoupled payments, they rent in over two-thirds of their program acres, which suggests that a sizable portion of their program benefits may be passed through to nonfarming landowners. (Mary E. Burfisher and Jeffrey Hopkins, editors)