Meat & Livestock News

USDA Census Reveals Ongoing Decline in Farm Numbers and Acreage


  • The 2022 Census of Agriculture indicates a 7% decrease in the number of US farms and a 2% reduction in farming acreage since 2017.
  • Despite these declines, the average farm size has increased by 5%, and there’s a notable rise in the number of young and female farmers.
  • The census highlights significant net farm incomes and improvements in internet access for farms, amidst efforts to diversify income sources for smaller and medium-sized farms.

The latest 2022 Census of Agriculture, unveiled by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, presents a mixed picture of the US farming landscape. The census, which offers a comprehensive snapshot every five years, reveals a 7% drop in the number of farms and ranches across the United States, from 2017 to 2022, bringing the total down to 1.9 million. Farming acreage also saw a slight decrease of 2%, totalling 880 million acres, yet still representing 39% of all US land.

An interesting trend from the census is the increase in the average farm size, which has grown by 5% to 463 acres. This change aligns with historical patterns, as does the slight rise in the average age of farmers, now at 58.1 years.

However, the census also points to a burgeoning group of younger farmers, with an 11% increase in those with 10 or fewer years of experience, surpassing 1 million. Farms led by young producers, under age 35, tend to be larger in both acreage and sales.

Female participation in farming has also seen a significant uptick, with 1.2 million female producers now making up 36% of all producers. Moreover, 58% of all farms reported having at least one female decision-maker.

While the census recorded high net farm incomes, it did not capture the subsequent declines anticipated in 2023 and 2024. Hubert Hamer, the administrator of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, highlighted the census’s role in identifying trends and shifts within the industry, noting new data points on hemp cultivation, precision agriculture, and internet access, which has increased from 75% in 2017 to 79% in 2022.

Secretary Vilsack underscored the importance of the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to create additional income streams for smaller and medium-sized farmers, focusing on renewable energy, sustainable aviation fuels, and independent livestock and poultry processing.

These initiatives aim to distribute farm income more equitably, ensuring a broader range of farms can thrive and contribute to their local economies. The administration’s approach appears to be bearing fruit, with record net farm incomes and the first rural population growth in a decade.

This census serves as a crucial indicator for policymakers and stakeholders, suggesting a pivotal moment for US agriculture. The choice lies between maintaining the status quo, potentially leading to further contraction of the agricultural sector, or embracing a new model that fosters greater opportunity and inclusivity for farmers across the nation.