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Three decades of consolidation in U.S. agriculture

A new report from the Economic Research Service

Source: USDA ERS

Crop production has seen a widespread and persistent shift of acreage and sales to larger farming operations over the last three decades. Some livestock sectors have seen dramatic structural change, but consolidation has been modest or nonexistent in pasture/grazing land and in the associated cow-calf sector. Consolidation has been facilitated by increased farm-level commodity specialization, according to a new report from USDA’s Economic Research Service entitled, Three Decades of Consolidation in U.S. Agriculture.

Farm production has continued to shift to larger farms. By 2015, 51 percent of the value of U.S. farm production came from farms with at least $1 million in sales, compared to 31 percent in 1991.

Cropland acreage has also concentrated into fewer, but larger, farms. By 2012, 36 percent of all cropland was on farms with at least 2,000 acres of cropland, up from 15 percent in 1987.

Consolidation in crop production has been persistent, increasing in each 5-year Census of Agriculture between 1982 and 2012.

Consolidation in livestock appears to be episodic, with little change over some periods, interspersed with dramatic changes in farm/industry organization and farm size.

 If you have any questions, you can contact me or the lead author, James MacDonald, at (202) 694-5610 or [email protected]

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