#760 – Fascinating Facts About Farming in AmericaOct 29, 2019
We love this article about fascinating farming facts that first appeared on The Stacker. We abbreviated the list from its original 50 facts to these…
Fascinating Facts About Farming in America
Ellen Dewitt | The Stacker | October 11, 2019
There are about 2 million US farms – Roughly 3 million people work for the country’s more than 2 million farms. Nearly all of these farms are family-run.
A farm classification is based on a monetary threshold – The USDA defines a farm as a place producing and selling at least $1,000 of agricultural products in a year (or one that would have under normal conditions). Farm size is measured by gross cash farm income or GCFI.
90% of US farms are small – In the United States, a farm is considered small if its gross income is less than $350,000 a year. Nine out of 10 farms in the country rank as small, accounting for 52% of the land and 26% of production.
Large-scale family farms represent just 2.5% of US farms but account for more than 50% of American produce – Large-scale family farms are those that earn between $1 million and $4.9 million a year. They comprise just 2.5% of U.S. farms — but account for over two-thirds of dairy production and more than half of fruit and vegetable production.
One US farm can feed 166 people – Based on this average, farmers around the world will have to grow about 70% more food than they do now in order to meet demands by the year 2050. At that point, the global population is expected to increase by 2.2 billion.
US farmland is worth $2 trillion – The U.S. has more than 900 million acres of farmland with a real estate value of more than $2 trillion. As the number of farms has decreased, the average land size for the average farm has increased.
Agriculture represents 1% of our GDP – The top farm products in the U.S. are cattle, corn and soybeans. Agricultural exports from the United States in 2018 were valued at about $143 billion but are expected to decrease to about $137 billion for 2019.
The invention of the wheat combine in 1934 changed farming forever – American Hiram Moore’s invention of the wheat combine allowed for the automated process of removing wheat heads from stems and separating out the kernels. Each head on a stem of wheat contains about 50 kernels. Wheat is ready to be harvested when it dries out and turns golden.
Net losses at US farms are on the rise – The number of U.S. farms reporting net losses between 2012 and 2017 rose 1.2% to 1.15 million. The number of farms reporting net profits dropped 8.3% to fewer than 900,000. The median household income among all farms was about $76,000 in 2017, higher than the median $61,000 for all households.
Farmers are getting older – The average age of an American farmer is 58, up 1.2 years in half a decade. The average age of an organic farmer, meanwhile, is 52.
Most farmers need outside work to make ends meet – Only two in five small farmers in the United States turn a profit each year, and about two-thirds work another job. Slightly more than half of U.S. farms are very small, with annual sales of less than $10,000.
The US economy has left behind farm and ranch families – Farm and ranch families make up less than 2% of the U.S. population — down from 70% in 1840. That dramatic shift in America’s workforce shows a complete metamorphosis in the country’s economy, once largely dependent on agriculture.
The US is the world’s third-biggest food supplier – About 40% of the land in the United States is used for agriculture, including cropland and pastureland. U.S. farmers produce 10% of the world’s wheat and 20% percent of the world’s beef, pork, and lamb.
The US is the world’s leader in corn production – The United States accounts for a third of all corn grown globally and is the biggest corn exporter in the world. Other corn-producing giants are China and Brazil. The biggest corn-growing states in the U.S. are Iowa and Illinois.
Tractors overtook horses and mules by 1954 – In 1954, the number of tractors on farms surpassed the number of horses and mules for the first time. Technology and the use of tractors over animals marked the Second American Agricultural Revolution.
Farming provides millions of American jobs – Some 40% of the world’s population works in agriculture, making it the largest employer on the planet. Farming in the United States directly employs more than 2.6 million people.
Farm output has soared in the last 70 years – Technological innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization continued, even as the amount of land and labor in farming fell. Still, total U.S. farm output more than doubled between 1948 and 2015.