Where are the beef, corn, sheep...?The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest farm numbers report lead one to wonder where all of the farms are going.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest farm numbers report lead one to wonder where all of the farms are going.
According to the annual farm numbers report for 2012 that was released last month, there were approximately 2.2 million farms in the U.S last year, which is a decrease of about 11,630 farms from 2011.
The USDA’s report found that there were 915,000 farms in U.S. that raised cattle last year, which amounts to 7,000 fewer cattle than in 2011.
Gary Hoffman, executive director of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition for eight years and also serves as the state’s director of dairy development, said the entire farming industry in The Peace Garden State — not just the dairy industry — has taken a toll from urban sprawl.
“There used to be farms in every section of North Dakota, but there just aren’t anymore and it’s not just dairy farms where we are seeing this trend,” Hoffman said. “It’s also true with grain and beef producers too.”
Across North Dakota, there are about 1.7 million cattle and calves, which is down from an estimated 2 million cows and calves in 1997, said Jackie Buckley, the North Dakota State University county extension agent for Morton County — the top-producing cattle county in North Dakota.
“The aging population of the producers is one reason behind that,” she said. “Another is our high crop prices that have caused people to sell their cows and go into other areas of farming. People also sold a lot of calves a year or so ago because the market was so good for them, and they haven’t built their herds back up.”
Buckley said the drought conditions also are a big part of the nationwide drop in cattle inventory.
“We had a dry summer this year, so a lot of people were selling off their cattle,” she said. “I know that the Department of Agriculture has hired someone to help with the buildup of the state’s cattle inventory, so the state is trying.”
By the USDA’s definition, a farm is any place where $1,000 or more in agricultural goods are, or have the potential, to be produced.
Ted Quanrud, who handles public information for the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, said the state does not define a small farm operation, but the federal government does.
By USDA standards, a small family farm is an operation with annual sales of agricultural products of less than $250,000, and large farms are those that gross more than $500,000 a year.
Large family farms are considered those that gross between $250,000 and $500,000, according to the USDA.
In the 2012 farm numbers report, farmers that gross more than $500,000 in sales increased by 8.6 percent, or 145,190 farms. The USDA speculates that the decrease in the number of large farms nationwide is due to the jump in commodity prices as well as the price of land.
Farms in the $1,000 to $9,999 sales category also experienced a 2.5 percent decrease in farms numbers.
Despite those decreases, the report indicated that there were gains nationwide in the number of farms producing between $10,000 and $99,999 in sales increased by a little more than 600,000 farms nationwide.
The reports also found that gains in farm numbers were seen in 2012 by farm operations with sales between $100,000 and $249,999 in sales and farms with $250,000 and $499,999 in sales.