USDA reports average farm size continues to grow

An ag economist says the total number of farms is declining and the size is increasing.  The latest Farm and Land and Farms report from the USDA had average farm acres up 1 acre to 446 acres while the number of farms declined by around 10,000 to 2 million (for reference, in 2015 there were 2.1 million farms reported). 

University of Missouri’s Scott Brown says from weather to a lack of succession planning there are a lot of factors contributing to the shift. 

He says technology is making the transition easier.  “Technology rarely is scale-neutral,” he says.  “You need to use that technology over more units, which just means we’re just getting bigger over time to stretch the large fixed costs.”

Brown says he anticipates this trend to continue. 

He tells Brownfield when herd expansion resumes in the cattle industry, he expects the growth to occur in larger operations.  “Succession planning is certainly a problem in those small operations,” he says.  “And then we see all the technology that isn’t scale neutral even in the cattle side of the equation that I think expands the average herd size going forward.”

Brown says the persistent drought conditions in some areas and cost of production also contribute to the decline in total farms.

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