Where is the Middle Class?
Let’s look at why agriculture’s middle class is shrinking
Trends in agriculture include an on-going decline in the number of farms, an increase in average farm size, an increase in average age of farmers, and fewer and fewer people living on farms. Let’s look at the hard data:
The 2007 Census of Agriculture indicated that consolidation trends in agriculture are nation-wide. In just five years (2002-2007):
- Illinois, Iowa and Indiana each lost more than 6,000 mid-sized farms
- A brand-new category was introduced in the 2007 census for farms earning $5 million and more annual revenue; there are only 5,541 farms in this group
- Across the U.S., large farming operations ($1,000,000 and more annual revenue) increased by 26,836 (that’s a 94% increase!)
- Tennessee lost more than 8,000 farms
- The number of farms declined in nearly all crop production states
- Mid-sized farms have been lost all across the United States
Looking at long-term trends in farming, it is easy to see that the farming industry has changed significantly over the past 10-20 years, and the rate of change appears to be accelerating. These trends are indicative of the truth that it is becoming more and more difficult for small farms to compete:
- Number of small and mid-sized farms continues to decline
- Percentage of national agriculture production by family farm-sized operations continues to decline
- Number of large farms continues to increase
- Percentage of national production by large farms continues to increase
- Farms are becoming increasingly specialized
- Farms need increasing revenues
- Percentage of population living on farms continues to decline; youth is leaving, as evidenced by the change from 2002 to 2007 in the number of principal operators in each age group:
- Under age 25 decreased by 30%
- Over age 75 increased by 20%
- Average age of farmer increased from 55.3 to 57.1
- 94.7% of farms produce only 26.2% of farm revenue.
- Approximately 5% of producers are generating nearly 75% of farm revenue.
- .3% of farms (5541 farms) produced more than 94.7% of producers.
The consolidation we see occurring in the crop and dairy industries today has already hit the pork, poultry and beef feedlot industries. USDA statistics are alarming and confirm that consolidation is essentially complete for pork.
What can you do? To ensure long-term sustainability for your farm operation, you need to join a system. FamilyFarms Group provides opportunities as a group of committed producers and resources that individuals farmers cannot accomplish on their own. Ready to learn more?