Iowa Public Television

 

Farm land use falls, farms increase

posted on February 25, 2000


FOR THE CURRENT FISCAL YEAR THE GOVERNMENT PROJECTS THE U.S. WILL RUN A FARM TRADE SURPLUS OF 11.5-BILLION DOLLARS. THAT WOULD BE THE LOWEST SURPLUS IN 13 YEARS. A GENERAL ABUNDANCE OF GRAIN AND OILSEED IN THE WORLD, COUPLED WITH FISCAL POLICIES THAT HAVE SIPHONED INFLATION FROM WORLD ECONOMIES, HAS SLOWED EXPORT DEMAND. AND, WHILE THAT DEMAND IS EXPECTED TO STRENGTHEN, THE FACT IS ECONOMIC CONDITIONS HAVE CHANGED DRAMATICALLY IN THE PAST DECADE. DEMAND IS SHIFTING AWAY FROM RAW COMMODITIES IN FAVOR OF AN INFORMATION BIAS, RANGING FROM GUARANTEES OF THE IDENTITY AND SOURCE OF COMMODITIES TO FULLY PROCESSED PRODUCTS.

AND, EVER SO SUBTLY, THAT TREND ALONG WITH OTHERS IS RESHAPING THE STRUCTURE OF AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

THE U-S DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE RELEASED ITS ANNUAL REPORT ON FARMS AND LAND IN FARMS THIS WEEK. THE DECADES LONG TREND OF DECREASING TOTAL FARMABLE ACRES CONTINUED LAST YEAR. IN 1999, THE TOTAL AREA FARMED WAS DOWN MORE THAN 6 MILLION ACRES FROM 1998, A DROP OF LESS THAN ONE PERCENT. THE BIGGEST DECLINE WAS IN TEXAS WHICH LOST NEARLY ONE MILLION FARMLAND ACRES LAST YEAR, BUT STILL HAS THE MOST LAND DEDICATED TO AGRICULTURE AT MORE THAN 130 MILLION ACRES.

THE FARM CONSOLIDATION OF THE EIGHTIES GAVE WAY IN 1992. SINCE THAT TIME, AVERAGE FARM SIZE HAS BEEN DECREASING. THE AVERAGE FARM SIZE IN 1999 WAS 432 ACRES, DOWN THREE ACRES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR.

DESPITE A DECREASE IN THE NUMBER OF FARMS IN 13 STATES, FARM NUMBERS INCREASED NATIONALLY LAST YEAR. THE SLIGHT SWELL IS ATTRIBUTED TO MORE SMALL FARMS, WHICH OFTEN GROW ALTERNATIVE CROPS AND HIGH VALUE COMMODITIES.

INDIANA, NORTH DAKOTA AND IOWA ALL RECORDED A DECREASE IN FARMS IN THE NORTH CENTRAL REGION, THE ONLY REGION OF THE U-S TO SEE A DECLINE.

Tags: agriculture farms news