Minnesota Farmer


Number of farms down

The 2012 Census of Agriculture preliminary report is out and the number of farms here in the U.S. is again down, but the amount of land is farms is down also.  Now you have to understand that the census says a farm is “any place from which $1,000 of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year.”  So many of these farms are, strictly speaking, only a small part of the family income.  Still they are considered farms.  You can see the whole Census report here.

Oh, and yes the average size of a farm is up, but only to 434 acres per farm.  This is far from mega-farm size.

A distressing to me stat from the report is the increase in age of our countries farmers.  While the number of farmers under age 34 has not changed much, those who farm and are between 35 and 54 years of age has decreased, and the number of those over 55 is increasing.  Farming is hard work, and to be depending on those near or over retirement age to supply our countries food is dangerous.  Fully 63% of our nations farms are operated by those over 55.

Now at 60, I admit to being part of that group, and I am looking forward to retirement soon.  I am not going to wait until 84 to turn over the farm to someone younger as my father has.  We need young folks on the farm, but if you have health problems, or are smart enough, you can make much more money in a city job than you can on a farm.  I watch with admiration those young folks I see in Farm Bureau who are already making a go of farming.  I would be proud to turn over the reins of todays agriculture to any of them.

Corn-soybean belt farmers have just come out of some great years for income on the farm, and beef producers have just finished some of the most heart breaking years you can imagine.  I hope that out of these years we will see some enthusiastic young people step forward to run the farms of tomorrow.  Our countries food independence is vital and having families on the farm is the only way to guarantee it.

Michael

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