By DOUG SCHMITZ
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The number of U.S. farms fell significantly in 2015, estimated now at 2.07 million, down 18,000 nationally from 2014, according to the USDA’s newly released Farms and Land in Farms 2015 Summary, with Illinois losing 900 farms and Iowa, 500.
With such factors as generational farm cessation, financial troubles and urban sprawl, David Knopf, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Eastern Mountain field office regional director, said it’s also “an aging farmer population exiting the business and barriers to entry, such as lack of capital or competition for land. Generally, this is the trend.”
U.S. producers were asked during the 2015 mid-year surveys to report the value of sales based on production during the 2014 calendar year. Production or commodity price changes in 2014 resulted in the total value for most livestock and livestock products to increase, while the value of most crops declined, the USDA said.
According to the Feb. 18 report, total land in farms, at 912 million acres, decreased 1 million from 2014; however, the average farm size for 2015 was 441 acres, up 3 from 2014.
“It’s just that someone has to farm the ground,” Robb Ewoldt, a Blue Grass, Iowa, cattle rancher and farmer, told KWQC in Davenport. “It’s just that there’s not as many of us farming as what there once were.
“As older people, they want to retire and there are fewer and fewer younger people coming back to the farm, and therefore, you can see how the operations are growing and farmer numbers are decreasing,” Ewoldt said, adding it’s a trend he’s seen over the last three decades.
The report said Iowa had 87,500 farms, down 500 from 2014’s 88,000, but the state gained in average farm size from 347 acres in 2014 to 349 last year.
“Farms are getting bigger and it’s kind of a natural progression, being it is easier for a farmer to farm 1,000 acres versus 500 acres 20 years ago because of the equipment advances in the industry – and because now it really takes a bigger farm to make a living and feed a family,” Joe Dierickx, DeWitt, Iowa, farmer told KWQC.
The report said Illinois had 74,500 farms in 2014, but lost 900 last year; however, the state gained in average farm size from 361 acres in 2014 to 365 last year. Indiana had 58,200 farms in 2014, and, like Iowa, lost 500 last year; however, the state gained in average farm size from 253 acres in 2014 to 255.
Moreover, Michigan had 51,600 farms in 2014, but lost 100 last year; however, the state remained the same in average farm size, at 193 acres. Ty Kalaus, USDA-NASS Great Lakes Region deputy regional director in Lansing, said, “The decrease in the number of small farms has more than offset an increase in large farms.”
The report stated Ohio had 74,500 in 2014, but lost 100; however, the state remained the same in average farm size, with 188 acres in 2014 and 2015. The region’s states that had the same amount of farms in 2015 as in 2014 were Kentucky (76,400); and Tennessee (67,300). They also had the same average farm size, with 170 and 162, respectively.
The report said the biggest changes in farms for 2015 were that producers with sales below $10,000 operated 2.92 million fewer acres and those in Sales Class $10,000-$99,999 operated 2.35 million fewer acres. In addition, nearly 31 percent of all U.S. farmland was operated by farms with less than $100,000 in sales. Forty-one percent of all farmland was operated by farms with sales of $500,000 or more.
To view the full report, visit bit.ly/ 1Bv4vre