According to USDA's latest National Agriculture Statistics Service annual report, the continued decline in the number of farms and land in farms reflects a continuing consolidation in farming operations and diversion of agricultural land to nonagricultural uses.
The number of farms in the United States in 2005 is estimated at 2.1 million, 0.6% fewer than in 2004. Total land in farms, at 933.4 million acres, decreased 2.9 million acres, or 0.3%, from 2004. The average farm size was 444 acres during 2005, an increase of one acre from the previous year.
Farm numbers and land in farms are broken down into five economic sales classes. Farms and ranches are classified into these "sales classes" by summing their sales of agricultural products and government program payments. Sales class breaks occur at $10,000, $100,000, $250,000, and $500,000.
Farm numbers declined in the three smallest sales classes and increased in the two largest sales classes. Part of the decline in the smaller sales classes was due to normal attrition, such as retirements. In addition, some operations transferred to larger sales classes by enterprise expansion. However, the majority of the changes in the sales classes were likely due to rising incomes. Many farms and ranches near the top of their sales class in 2004 moved into the next higher sales class in 2005 without adding land or otherwise expanding their operations.
The largest percentage changes from 2004 occurred in the smallest and largest sales classes. Farm numbers declined 1.1%, to 1.17 million farms, in the $1,000 - $9,999 sales class. Meanwhile, farm numbers increased 3.8%, to 79,410 farms, in the $500,000 or more sales class. The number of farms with less than $250,000 in sales fell 0.8% from 2004 and the number of farms with $250,000 or more in sales rose 2.4%.
Land in farms also shifted from lower sales classes to higher sales classes. In the $1,000-$9,999 sales class, land in farms dropped 2.1%, to 118.4 million acres, while land operated by farms in the largest sales class, $500,000 or more in sales, increased 3.0%, to 209.9 million acres. Farms with under $250,000 in sales operated 571.3 million acres, or 1.7% fewer acres than 2004. Farmers in the two largest sales classes, representing operations with sales of $250,000 or more, operated 362.2 million acres, up 2.0% from 2004.
Over all, the average farm size increased in 2005. However, average farm sizes declined in the sales classes due to smaller farms moving up to higher sales classes.
This report also contains estimates of farm numbers and land in farms for Puerto Rico. The number of farms with sales of $1,000 or more in Puerto Rico rose to 13,600 in 2005, 100 farms more than 2004. Land in farms also rose, from 600,000 acres in 2004 to 610,000 acres in 2005.
The full report can be found by clicking HERE.