By Doug Graves
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A USDA survey released last month reported nearly 7,000 fewer farms in the country than there were a year ago.
The number of farms in the United States was estimated at 2,012,050, down 6,950 farms from the year before. The total land in farms, at 895,300,000 acres, was a decrease of 1,300,000 acres from 2020. The Farms and Land in Farms 2021 Summary was released by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
Are some farmers opting out? Is development and urban sprawl the cause for reduction in farmland? Rest easy, said several agricultural statisticians. The American farm is not disappearing anytime soon, despite a reduction in some states.
“Sure, one driving force to seeing a decline in farms is the age of operators,” said Dave Knopf, NASS Kentucky Field Office director. “We have a generation that’ll be leaving farming and it’s just that many don’t have family members who want to continue farming.
“But an offset to this downside is there’s a lot of interest in growing food and raising animals right now. In addition, we have more food now than we need currently and we’re feeding the world as well.”
Kentucky farmers posted a record-high harvest for corn for the 2021 season. In 2021, Kentucky corn growers saw an average of 192 bushels per acre, the highest average yield recorded in Kentucky and 15 bushels higher than the national average.
The number of farms in Kentucky in 2021 was 74,100, a decline of 400 farms from the previous year. Land in farms was 12,900 acres, roughly the same from the year before. The average farm size went from 173 acres in 2020 to 174 acres in 2021.
Housing development across the country is often blamed for farmland shrinkage as more and more farmers see housing projects creep ever so close to their property.
“Housing developments are a factor in some of these statistics but they’re not a big effect,” said Mark Schleusener, Illinois state statistician at the NASS field office in Springfield. “Here in Illinois, we’re down by just 200 farms over the past year. The decline in the number of farms in our case is more from a consolidation of making your farm bigger if you can, thus there are fewer farms.”
The number of farms in Illinois in 2021 was 70,900, down from 71,100 the year before. Land in farms was 27 million acres, approximately the same as 2020. The average size farm in Illinois was 381 acres, up from 380 acres the year before.
“There are economies of scale that help larger farms,” Schleusener said. “When it comes to equipment if you’re going to purchase a new combine, you’re going to need a lot of acres to go with that, or perhaps just buy an older one. That’s when we see partnerships born among brothers, cousins, friends, neighbors to combine their acres to bring in that new equipment.”
The number of farms in Indiana in 2021 was 55,100, down 400 from a year ago, according to Nathanial Warenski, state statistician of the NASS Indiana Field Office. Land in farms was 14.8 million acres, unchanged from last year. The average size farm in Indiana was 269 acres per farm, up two acres from 2020.
Cheryl Turner, state statistician of the Ohio Field Office, reported the number of Ohio farms in 2021 was 76,900, down 900 from a year earlier. Land in farms was 13.5 million acres, down 100,000 acres from last year. The average size farm in Ohio was 176 acres per farm, up one acre from 2020.
The number of farms in Michigan in 2021 was 46,000, down 500 from the previous year, according to Marlo D. Johnson, director of the NASS Great Lakes Regional Office. Land in farms was 9.7 million acres, down 100,000 acres from last year. The average size farm in Michigan was 211 acres per farm, unchanged from 2020. The average farm size for 2021 is 445 acres, up from 444 acres the previous year.
Just five states showed an increase in the number of farms over the 12-month period: Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.