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Farms & Land in Farms – Perspective for Smaller and Larger Enterprises

Touch the Soil News #1961 (Photo – Irrigated Wheat – USDA, Public Domain)

Every year, the USDA publishes a report called “Farms and Land in Farms.”  With statistics going back to 1950, you can see how much land has been taken out of farming and how farm numbers have decreased.

The peak farmland year was 1954, when American farmland (cropland and pasture) stood at  1,206,355,000 acres.  For 2022, America farmed 893,400,000 acres.  That equates to a decline of 312,955,000 acres.  To get the full effect of this decline, it would be the equivalent of a farm 500 miles wide and 1,000 miles long.  The real kicker is that estimates are that almost 50 percent of farmland has been degraded for a number of reasons.

So what does this mean for the small farm enterprise?  It means that farmland regeneration is a necessity. It also indicates that a small farm that can raise higher margin crops to sell directly to consumer may be more able to spend and improve the quality of an acre than a large enterprise with thousands of acres facing slim margins on mono-crops.

For perspective, of the land farmed in 2022, approximately 300 million acres are in crops and 593 million acres in pasture and rangeland.  This means that crop acres, and pasture acres whose productivity can be increased may be a more profitable approach than trying to buy more acres.

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