Publications

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Measures of Farm Household Well-Being Tell Different Stories

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Since 1998, average farm operator household income has exceeded that of the typical U.S. household by 3 to 21 percent, and median farm household wealth has been 4-5 times that of all U.S. households. But the variability of income complicates farm-nonfarm comparisons.

  • Farm Income Expected To Increase While Net Worth Declines in 2010

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Net farm income is forecast to be $63 billion in 2010, up 11.9 percent from 2009. While the 2010 forecast is $25 billion below the all-time record in 2004 and near record in 2008, it represents a rebound from 2009 when the global recession dampened demand for U.S. crops and livestock.

  • 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.

  • Farm Household Well-Being: Comparing Consumption- and Income-Based Measures

    ERR-91, February 12, 2010

    ERS presents, for the first time, estimates of farm households' consumption expenditures and compares them to consumption estimates for all U.S. households. Consumption can complement indicators of household income in assessing economic well-being.

  • 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.

  • Taking the Pulse of Rural Health Care

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2009

    Rural households have higher rates of mortality, disability, and chronic disease than urban households, and less access to affordable, nearby, high-quality health care. Adoption of new health information technologies, promoted by a $19 billion allocation in the 2009 economic stimulus package, holds promise for improving coordination among geographically dispersed health care providers.

  • Income Source Matters in Farm Household Spending

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2009

    Many U.S. farm households have several income sources, including farm production, off-farm jobs, and government payments. ERS research findings suggest that farm households may employ “mental accounting” to decide which income sources, including different types of government payments, are most appropriate for household expenses.

  • Health Status and Health Care Access of Farm and Rural Populations

    EIB-57, August 17, 2009

    ERS examines available research on health status trends of farm and rural households, their health care coverage and expenditures, and access to health care resources in rural and urban areas.

  • Federal Tax Policies and Farm Households

    EIB-54, May 15, 2009

    Significant changes in Federal individual income and estate tax policies over the last 10 years have reduced average tax rates for farm households

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Health Insurance as a New Indicator of Farm Households’ Well-Being

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2008

    As with all households, the basic indicators of farm household well-being—income and wealth—do not fully capture information about well-being. Because medical care is relatively expensive and can significantly affect morbidity and mortality, the incidence of health insurance coverage among populations is an important indicator of well-being. Since farming is a relatively dangerous occupation, health insurance coverage is critical. Health insurance provides individuals or groups with a contractual arrangement for personal medical expenses to be covered (usually, in part) in exchange for a fee paid to insurance companies.

  • 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.

  • Income an Incomplete Measure of Farm Household Well-Being

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2007

    Provides a justification for using a joint indicator to consider the well-being of farm households and then compares the well-being, based on this indicator, of farm operator households and the U.S. population.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2007 Edition

    EIB-24, June 01, 2007

    U.S. farms are diverse, ranging from small retirement and residential farms to enterprises with annual sales in the millions. Nevertheless, most U.S. farms-98 percent in 2004-are family farms. Even the largest farms tend to be family farms. Large-scale family farms and nonfamily farms account for 10 percent of U.S farms, but 75 percent of the value of production. In contrast, small family farms make up most of the U.S. farm count, produce a modest share of farm output, and receive substantial off-farm income. Many farm households have a large net worth, reflecting the land-intensive nature of farming.

  • 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.

  • Off-Farm Income, Technology Adoption, and Farm Economic Performance

    ERR-36, February 01, 2007

    ERS examines the relationship between off-farm work, farmers' technology choices, and the economic performance of farms and farm households.