The USDA National Ag Statistics Service this week released the 2012 update on the number of farms and land in farms, revealing another year of on-trend data and affirming what many expected: fewer farms, larger farms.
In 2012, the number of U.S. farms is estimated at 2.2 million, down 11,630 farms from 2011. Additionally, total land in farms, at 914 million acres, decreased 3 million acres from 2011.
By economic class, the number of farms in the $500,000 or more sales category increased by 8.6% while the number of farms in the $100,000 - $249,999 and $250,000 - $499,999 sales classes increased 1.9% and 1.1%, respectively.
Farm numbers increased slightly in the $10,000 - $99,999 sales class, and the number of farms in the $1,000 - $9,999 sales class decreased by 2.5%.
NASS attributes the change in the highest economic class to higher commodity prices.
Land in farms
Land in farms increased in the largest sales class while decreasing in all other sales classes.
Land operated by farms in the $500,000 & over sales class increased 3.7%, to 317.1 million acres. Land operated by farms in the $1,000-$9,999 sales class decreased by 3.9%, to slightly less than 97 million acres.
Land in farms in the $10,000 - $99,999, $100,000 - $249,999 and $250,000 - $499,999 sales classes decreased by 1.4%, 2.6% and 2.4% respectively.
The average farm size increased 1 acre in 2012 to 421 acres per farm. However, average farm sizes declined in all sales classes partially due to smaller farms moving up to higher sales classes.
The USDA report also finds the number of operations with cattle totaled 915,000, down 1% from 2011. Beef cow operations are down 1% in all, while dairy cattle operations are down 3%.
The number of operations with hogs totaled 68,300 for 2012, down 1% from 2011. Farms with 2,000 or more head accounted for 87% of the inventory, USDA notes.
The number of operations with sheep totaled 79,500 for 2012, down 1% from 2011. Of all sheep operations that include breeding sheep, 93.9% were comprised of 1-99 head, 5.0% had 100-499 head, and the remaining 1.1% were operations with 500 head or more.
The number of operations with goats totaled 149,000 for 2012, down 1% from a year earlier. Angora goat operations totaled 5,300, down 4% from 2011. Milk goat operations totaled 30,500, down 2% from 2011. Meat goat operations totaled 123,000, down 1% from a year earlier.
USDA's definition of a farm is "any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the year." This definition has been used since 1974.
Source: USDA NASS Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations 2012 Summary