Farm Demographics

Introduction to Farm Demographics

“We have an aging farming population. If left unchecked, this could threaten our ability to produce the food we need – and also result in the loss of tens of thousands of acres of working lands that we rely on to clean our air and water.” – Secretary Vilsack, August 12 Opening Comments to the Drake Forum on America’s New Farmers.

The average age of a farmer today in America is 57 years of age. Five years ago it was 55. We have had an increase of 30% of the farmers over the age of 75 and a decrease in the number of farmers under the age of 25 by 20%.

Approximately 20% of U.S. farms and ranches are operated by those with 10 years or less of experience operating a farm.

Demographically, beginning farmers are in all age ranges, racial and ethnic groups, and both male and female, although a higher share of them are younger and more likely to be women compared to established farmers.

Beginning farmers are more likely to have a college degree and have a major occupation other than farming.

Only 17% of beginning farms grossed over $25,000, compared to 34% of established farms.

Most beginning farmers own some land, but are more like to not own any land (about 9%) than established farms.

Beginning farms are less likely to participate in the direct payment programs and, when they do participate, their average payments are lower than established farms. Part of the reason for this is because eligibility for direct payment payments is often tied to the type of commodity historically produced and the number of acres in production.

In contrast to direct payment programs, beginning farms are more likely to participate in loan programs than established farms.

Beginning farms are more likely to specialize in livestock specialties and less likely to specialize in cash grains and oilseeds, compared to established farms.

The value of production from beginning farms is evenly split between crop and livestock, whereas the value of production of established farms is 58% crops and 42% livestock (although this varies by farm size).