After all these years, agriculture in America remains overwhelmingly dominated by family farms. A new report by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) shows not only just how dependent America is on family farms, but also how many are independent of government.
“Seventy-two percent of all farms received no farm-related government payments in 2015,” according to the report written by USDA’s Robert A. Hoppe and James M. MacDonald. That figure stands in contrast to the many months and even years that every Congress spends on the big “Farm Bill.”
While farms are often depicted as benefiting from “corporate welfare” as they pursue “factory farming” practices, USDA’s “America’s Diverse Family Farms: 2016 Edition” collects the facts tell a different story. Among those facts are these:
- Family farms of various types together account for 99 percent of all farms, and those account for 89 percent of the production as of 2015.
- About 90 percent of the farms and small farms account for 48 percent of the land under production as of 2015.
- Small farms account for a large share of the production of poultry and eggs, mostly under contact, along with 52 percent of the hay production.
- Overall, the large share of production is by large scale family farms, about 42 percent.
ERS has “farm typology” for grouping farms. Included are small, medium and large family farms in addition to non-family farms, which account for just 1.3 percent of all farms that are not family farms.
Since 1991, the ERS researchers say farms producing $5 million or more have increased their shre of production to 23 percent in 2015, up from 13 percent. The mid-range farms with $1 million to $4,999,999 in productio increased to 29 percent, up from19 percent.
Dairy production and specialty crops dominated that production.
Most of the million or more farms remain family farms, with only 3 percent being non-family corporations. Small farms, however, are more likely to have an operating profit margin. Farm households are generally not low income when compared with other U.S households and U.S households headed by someone who is self-employed.
Farms operating after retirement typically will report income from Social Security of other sources.
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