The economy may be doing better than any one thought. Last month orders to factories for big-ticket items jumped by 2.6 percent. Existing home sales continue to soar, propelled by low mortgage rates. And retail sales jumped sharply in January, as did American incomes. Some economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan believe the recession, which began a year ago, may be ending. Some economists think the U.S. economy may expand by as much as 3.5 percent this year.
Obviously, conditions around the country may vary. Some regions and economic sectors will lag. Certainly, some sectors are in the throes of change. A case in point is agriculture.
The number of farms and ranches in the U.S. last year fell to 2.16 million, a drop of seven-tenths of a percent. That, according to USDA, is the second largest decline on record and the largest since 1991.
The number of farms and ranches fell in 23 states, with the biggest decline stretching from Ohio to the Dakotas.
For the purposes of the annual report, USDA defines a farm as any operation from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products is sold. When broken down according to annual sales, mid-sized farms suffered the biggest decline of some 1.2 percent. Small-sized farms decreased in number by six-tenths of a percent. The number of large farms was unchanged.