My foray in to the turkey industry piqued my interest in agriculture in general. So this post explores what the trends in farming. Most economists discuss the structural change that occurs in economies by noting that farming used to command 60% of the labor force, and now less than 2% of the labor force is engaged in farming. Shifts of that magnitude result in changes in culture and policy, some times those changes take a long time to take effect (daylight savings anyone?).
Continuing that trend, the graphs below show that the number total number of farms and acres operated have been declining over the past 23 years:
The jump in 2007 was the result of a dramatic rise in small scale farms as we approached the great recession. However, the decline in acres in operation clearly indicates a decrease in land use. This is surprising because both exports and imports of agricultural products are increasing. The US remains a net exporter of agricultural products, which suggests the changes we see in the farming industry are a result of economies of scale:
The number of small farming operations has decreased dramatically since the great recession, and the large scale farms are increasing. At the same time we do not observe a drastic change in the number of acres operated per farm:
The only thing to note regarding acre per operation, is that medium scale farms are shrinking in size. Large scale farms purchasing the largest of the medium scale farms, or mergers of medium scale farms might explain these trends, but this can't be teased out of this data with certainty.