Agricultural Information Bulletin No. (AIB-788) 42 pp

March 2004

Farmer Bankruptcies and Farm Exits in the United States, 1899-2002

The report finds that bankruptcy has played only a small role in the overall decline in farm numbers over the last 70 years. Most of the decline in farm numbers occurred between the 1940s and 1970s, when bankruptcy filings were at relatively low levels. Farm numbers have even risen when bankruptcies have been relatively high or rising, such as during the early 1930s or early 1990s. Not all bankruptcies result in farm exits, and most farm exits involve other factors. Bankruptcies are only one phenomenon within a broader set of changing economic circumstances-including rising agricultural productivity and expanding off-farm opportunities-that influence the size and structure of the farm sector.

Keywords: farm bankruptcies, bankruptcy filings, Family Farmer Bankruptcy Act of 1986, Chapter 12

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