WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The American landscape is dotted with fewer farms as a result of consolidation and a movement of land to nonagricultural uses, the government said on Friday.
U.S. farm operations are estimated at 2.08 million at the start of this year, a decline of 0.6 percent, from 2.09 million one year ago, the Agriculture Department said.
Some 930.9 million acres were in farmland, down 1.5 million acres from one year earlier. The decline in farm numbers pushed the average farm size up to 449 acres, an increase of 3 acres from the prior year.
“The decline in the number of farms and land in farms reflects a continuing consolidation in farming operations and diversion of agricultural land to nonagricultural uses,” the USDA said in its annual report on farm numbers.
Farms with sales of less than $100,000 — which account for about 83 percent of all U.S. farms — dropped 1.2 percent due to consolidation and rising incomes that moved some farmers and ranchers into the next sales bracket without adding land or boosting their businesses. Operations with sales of $100,000 or more rose 2.2 percent.
Among the states with the largest decline in farms, Tennessee lost 2,000 farms, Georgia 1,500 and California, Texas and Florida each lost about 1,000 farms in 2007. Despite the decline, Texas had the most farms in the country with 229,000 at the beginning of 2008, followed by Missouri at 104,500.
Illinois was the only Midwest state to report an increase, with operations rising by 100.
Reporting by Christopher Doering