The number of farms in the United States in 2020 was estimated at 2,019,000, a decline of -4,000 from 2019. That compares to a decline of -5,800 the year before that and -12,800 the year before that. So the good news is this was the smallest decline in total U.S. farms since 2010 when the number actually climbed by about +700. However, that slight gain in 2010 only briefly interrupted a longer-term decline in the number of U.S. farms that actually peaked at 6.8 million in 1935, then rapidly fell until the early 1970s. The decline has slowed since but has nonetheless continued. Since 2010, the number of U.S. farms has fallen by nearly -182,000.
As the total number of farms in America has declined, so too has total land in farms. Acreage in 2020 fell -800,000 from the previous year and down -23.4 million acres compared to 2010. The biggest decline in 2020 came from Texas, where land in farms fell -500,000 acres. There were also minor declines in Indiana (-100k), Minnesota (-100k), Missouri (-100k). Average farm size in the U.S. in 2020 was 444 acres, unchanged from 2019.
Farm numbers and land in farms are broken down into five economic sales classes. Farms and ranches are classified into these “sales classes” by summing their sales of agricultural products and government program payments. Sales class breaks occur at $10,000, $100,000, $250,000, and $500,000. The decline in farms was witnessed across all sales classes in 2020. The biggest change was seen in the smallest class, which operated -550,000 fewer acres in 2020 than the year before. Below are a couple of other interesting notes:
- Not Many Big Players – Only 7.4% of all farms had sales of $500,000 or more. Those with sales of $500,000 of more operated +40% of farmland. While just 3.9% of owners had sales of +$1 million or more. However, operations in the +$1 million or more sales class accounted for +25% of all land in farm. So roughly 4% of the largest farm owners are controlling over +25% of the farm acres. I actually thought the Big Players would be controlling even a greater percentage of the acres than that.
- The Majority of Operations – 81.5% of farms in 2020 had less than $100,000 in sales, nearly “unchanged” from a decade ago. Approximately 30.1% of all farmland in 2020 was operated by farms with less than $100,000 in sales. So, the smallest class of farmers are controlling just over +30% of the land in farm.