USDA recently released its "America’s Diverse Family Farms, 2017 Edition," based on data collected from approximately 18,500 farms. USDA researchers share these conclusions:

  • Farming is still overwhelmingly comprised of family businesses. Ninety-nine percent of U.S. farms are family farms, and they account for 90% of farm production.
  • Small farms make up 90% of the farm count and operate half of the farmland. The largest share of farm production (45%), however, occurs on large-scale family farms, although small farms account for half of poultry and hay production.
  • Small farms are much more likely than larger farms to have an operating profit market (OPM) of less than 10%, an indicator of high financial risk. Between half and three-fourths of small farms have an OPM that is low — depending on the farm type — compared with 31-42% of midsize and large-scale farms. Households operating small farms often receive substantial off-farm income to support their farms and living expenses. Nevertheless, some small farms in each type operate in the low-risk zone, with an OPM greater than 25%, as do more than 40% of large and very large farms.
  • Farm households in general are neither low income nor low wealth. Only 38% of farm households had income less than the median for all U.S. households in 2016, and 3% had wealth less than the U.S. median. Small-farm households rely heavily on off-farm sources for their income, so general economic policies — such as tax or economic development policy — can be as important to them as traditional farm policy.

Read the full report