Smaller Farms Couldn’t Survive Without Off-Farm Income

Perhaps all small farms should be classified as hobby farms, because few could survive economically without off-farm incomes.

This is how the USDA sums it up:

● Median total household income among all farm households ($57,050) exceeded the median for all U.S. households ($50,054) in 2011.

● More than half of U.S. farms are very small, with annual sales under $10,000; the households operating these farms typically draw all of their income from off-farm sources.

● Median household income and income from farming increase with farm size, as defined by sales.

● The typical household operating the largest commercial farms earned about $380,000 in 2011, and most of that came from farming.

Certainly, these large farm incomes are dependent upon U.S. policy requiring taxpayer support. In my recent post about my observations from driving across Nebraska, I addressed the issue of long commutes by farm dwellers to their jobs and for their goods and services. With policy supporting the large farms, farms continue to get larger, so a side effect is that the fewer residents who remain in these rural communities have to commute further and further. It would seem that this is an unsustainable trend. I call this problem the human side of the equation, the part of the debate which is usually ignored by pundits and policy-makers.

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