Changing Statistics in American Agriculture

Christina Ybema – Staff Writer

Throughout recent years, America has seen a substantial decrease in the number of farms and farmers. According to the USDA census of 2012, the years between 2007 and 2012 saw a 3.1 percent decrease in the number of farmers – which accounts for almost 100,000 fewer farmers. The 2014 agricultural census also recorded a 4.3 percent decrease in the number of farms.

Several things may have caused the number of farmers in the United States to drop so drastically. For example, several studies note that the average age of farmers in America is increasing. The current and future generations of farmers’ children just don’t seem interested in coming back to the farm.

This attitude served as the basis for a recent decision affecting the FFA acronym. Officials announced last year at the National FFA Competition that rather than standing for Future Farmers of America, FFA now stands for…nothing.

Some believe this change was made because many young people were reluctant to join the organization due to the presence of the word “Farmer” in the acronym. The connotations of the word “farmer” among this generation of young people is more negative than ever before.

However, despite the decreasing number of farmers in the United States, the average size of farms continues to increase. Farms are steadily growing larger and making more money than in the past. In fact, between the agriculture censuses of 2007 and 2014, the average American farm size increased by 3.8 percent—putting the average size of today’s farms at 434 acres. As for becoming more productive, the average farm in 2014 made about 32 percent more produce through either livestock or crops than the average farm in 2007. The same census even ranked Iowa among the top 10 states in the number of farms, total ag sales, livestock sales and crop sales.

Thus, despite falling numbers in current statistics – and fortunately for the average American – the American farmer appears to be in little danger of extinction.

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