NEFB Newspaper

New census shows alarming loss of family farms

New agriculture census data released by USDA is cause for concern as the number of farms operating in the United States and the number of farm acres have both fallen significantly. The 2022 Census of Agriculture reports 141,733 fewer farms in 2022 than in 2017. The number of farm acres fell to 880,100,848, a loss of more than 20 million acres from just five years earlier.

“The latest census numbers do not come as a surprise as we have seen a shift to larger farms for many years. Farmers and ranchers are facing a difficult economic landscape due to escalating input costs, stricter regulations, a scarcity of available labor and other challenges. But, despite the shift to larger farms, family business still dominates U.S. agriculture. Advancements in precision agriculture and technology have become pivotal in enabling fewer farmers to manage more acres and livestock,” said Mark McHargue, Nebraska Farm Bureau president. American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall is asking Congress to pass a new Farm Bill now.

“Family farms not only help drive the economy, they allow the rest of the nation the freedom to pursue their dreams without worrying about whether there will be enough food in their pantries. We urge Congress to heed the warning signs of these latest numbers. Passing a new Farm Bill that addresses these challenges is the best way to help create an environment that attracts new farmers and enables families to pass their farms to the next generation.”

While it’s encouraging that the number of beginning farmers increased, the latest census numbers show the number of farmers over the age of 65 is outpacing younger farmers. Almost 1.3 million farmers are now at or beyond retirement age, while just 300,000 farmers are under the age of 35. AFBF has long-established policies supporting beginning farmers, including through Farm Bill programs focused on new and beginning farmers.

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