50 fascinating facts about farming in America
Since just after World War II, the number of people employed in agriculture has dropped by half. Most of America’s farms are small and nearly all are family-run—but they’re also disappearing. In 1935, the number of farms peaked at almost 7 million. By 2007, that number had dropped to about 2.2 million farms. That number has dropped off slightly today.
COVID-19 has put additional pressure on an already strained industry: In March 2020, farm bankruptcies jumped by 23%. Issues have included breakdowns in the supply chain and the closures of processing plants, wreaking havoc on farms around the country. To find out more about this complex and essential industry, Stacker compiled a gallery of 50 facts about U.S. farming. We’ve relied on authoritative sources that include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and industry and trade groups.
In 1870, about half of all Americans had jobs in agriculture, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that farmworkers comprise less than 1% of salary workers in the U.S. Nevertheless, production is still huge. U.S. farmers raise hundreds of millions of egg-laying hens, harvest millions of tons of fruits and vegetables, and keep the rest of the world supplied with corn, wheat, and soybeans. A single acre of land can grow 50,000 pounds of strawberries or 3,000 pounds of wheat, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation; and in 2018 alone, $139.6 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products were exported around the world.
Keep reading to find more fascinating information about farming in the United States.
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There are about 2 million US farms
Roughly 3 million people work for the country’s more than 2 million farms. Nearly all of these farms are family-run.
A farm classification is based on a monetary threshold
The USDA defines a farm as a place producing and selling at least $1,000 of agricultural products in a year (or one that would have under normal conditions). Farm size is measured by gross cash farm income or GCFI.
90% of US farms are small
In the United States, a farm is considered small if its gross income is less than $350,000 a year. Nine out of 10 farms in the country rank as small, accounting for 52% of the land and 26% of production.
Large-scale family farms represent just 2.5% of US farms but account for more than 50% of American produce
Large-scale family farms are those that earn between $1 million and $4.9 million a year. They comprise just 2.5% of U.S. farms—but account for over two-thirds of dairy production and more than half of fruit and vegetable production.
Farmers in the US are overwhelmingly white
All but roughly 5% of American farmers are white, according to the 2017 federal census of U.S. farms. The number of Hispanic farmers has grown to 112,451, while only about 46,000 U.S. farmers are Black.
One US farm can feed 166 people
Based on this average, farmers around the world will have to grow about 70% more food than they do now in order to meet demands by the year 2050. At that point, the global population is expected to increase by 2.2 billion.
American farmland is worth $2 trillion
The U.S. has more than 900 million acres of farmland with a real estate value of more than $2 trillion. As the number of farms has decreased, the average land size for the average farm has increased.
Women today comprise a third of all US farm operators
The number of women farm operators spiked by 27% between 2012 and 2017, according to the government’s farming census. Today, more than half of all farms in this country boast at least one woman making business decisions.
Agriculture represents 1% of our GDP
The top farm products in the U.S. are cattle, corn, and soybeans. Agricultural exports from the United States in 2019 were valued at about $135.5 billion.
Commercial egg farms produce more than 65 billion eggs each year
A hen can lay about 250 eggs a year. China is the largest egg producer in the world, with roughly 160 billion a year.2018 All rights reserved.