Opportunities and challenges in agriculture census

By Traci Bruckner, tracib@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs

USDA’s Census of Agriculture provides statistical information that should help the agency respond to opportunities in American agriculture, such as the 14,000 more farms claiming farming as their primary occupation than there were in 2007.

However, in the size categories from 50 to 999 acres nearly 56,000 fewer farms were reported nationally.
And there was a net loss of over 96,000 farms in the 35-54 age group categories.

Mid-size and middle-age farmers make an essential contribution to strong rural communities. They support rural businesses and put kids in our rural schools - the source of future generations of farmers and ranchers who will live in rural and small town America.

Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, often suggests that we must not lose our rural and small town way of life. He also correctly points out that large farms are doing well, but farms in the middle are eroding.

Moreover, Secretary Vilsack knows that the consolidation of agriculture and the loss of mid-scale farms are not inevitable. Federal policy – commodity and crop insurance policy specifically – play a crucial role.

The 2014 Farm Bill put the ball in the Administration’s court. They have a second chance to make real what President Obama pledged in the rural policy platform of his 2008 Presidential election. He promised to close loopholes that allow mega-farms to game farm programs and ensure payments support active farmers who work the land.

Action, more than prophesy, will build rural America’s future.

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