The Van Trump Report

World is On Track to Lose Half of All Farms by 2100

According to a study from the University of Colorado Boulder, the number of farms globally will shrink in half by 2100, as the size of the existing farms will double. Published in the journal Nature Sustainability, the study is the first to track the number and size of farms year-over-year, from the 1960s and projecting through 2100.

Zia Mehrabi, assistant professor of environmental studies at CU Boulder, and colleagues used data from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization on agricultural area, GDP per capita and rural population size of more than 180 countries to first reconstruct the evolution of farm numbers from 1969-2013 and then to project those numbers through 2100. The findings show farms around the world will drop from 616 million in 2020 to 272 million in 2100.

A key reason behind the rapidly shrinking farm numbers is an increase in urbanization. As a country’s economy grows, more people migrate to urban areas, leaving fewer people in rural areas to tend the land.

As most are aware, farm consolidation in the US has already been happening for decades. In the US, the number of farms fell to 2.00 million in 2022, versus 2.16 million in 2002, and 3.70 million in 1962. Meanwhile, the total land in farms stood at 893.40 million acres in 2022, compared to 941.48 million in 2002 and 1.17 billion in 1962. It’s a similar situation in Western Europe.

Mehrabi’s analysis found that a turning point from farm creation to widespread consolidation will begin to occur as early as 2050 in communities across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean. Sub-Saharan Africa will follow the same course later in the century, the research found.

Mehrabi says that even if the total amount of farmland doesn’t change across the globe in coming years, fewer people will own and farm what land there is available, which will pose risks to world’s food supply. “Smaller farms typically have more biodiversity and crop diversity, which makes them more resilient to pest outbreaks and climate shocks,” Mehrabi explains.

At the same time, Mehrabi says there are upsides to the shift in corporate farm ownership – consolidation in farming can lead to improved labor productivity and economic growth with a larger workforce in non-farm employment and improved management systems. One of the biggest benefits of farm consolidation, Mehrabi said, is improved economic opportunity for people.

Mehrabi adds that future farmers will likely need more support, though. “Currently, we have around 600 million farms feeding the world, and they’re carrying 8 billion people on their shoulders,” Mehrabi said. “By the end of the century, we’ll likely have half the number of farmers feeding even more people. We really need to think about how we can have the education and support systems in place to support those farmers.” (Sources: University of Colorado at Boulder, Science Daily, USDA)

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