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Farm census data shows midsize farms continue to shrink

A first look at agricultural trends in NY, PA

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REGION—After being held up by the government shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its 2017 Census of Agriculture today.

The findings in the report show that the number of midsize farms and ranches across the United States has decreased since 2012—the census is taken every five years. The number of large farms are consistently gaining control of the agricultural market. Very small farms, fewer than 10 acres, have also grown in the last five years.

Just 105,453 farms produced 75 percent of all sales in 2017, down by more than 14,000 since 2012. Additionally, the largest farms, which have 2,000 or more acres by the USDA’s definition, now make up 58% of farmland in the country.

In both Sullivan County, NY and Wayne County, PA, the number of very small farm operations—from one to 9.9 acres—increased. In Wayne, the number of large farms, more than 1,000 acres, also increased, by just one farm. All other small and midsize farms dropped in number throughout both counties.

The same is true for the entire state of New York, though in Pennsylvania, the number of farms in the second-largest category, from 500 to 999 acres, also increased.

This trend follows what agricultural researchers have called a “hollowing out of the middle,” in which the largest-scale farms are producing the most, while midsize farms—generally owned by families who rely on farming for their income—disappear.

The River Reporter will provide more information on the census data as it relates to our area in the coming weeks.

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