Category Archives: farm statistics

Map of the Agriculture Dependent Counties in the United States & Future of Rural Area Economies

This post includes material from the report on the July 2014 Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s symposium, “Structural Transitions in Global Agriculture.”

The subject is the lack of growth and decline of population in the rural areas of the U.S. which used to be much more reliant upon agriculture.

Although we have heard repeatedly from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and people like RFS lobbyist Bob Dinneen about how great ethanol has been for the rural areas, when we look at the data, it shows us quite the opposite. One of the reasons for this is that the farms that grow monoculture crops like corn keep getting bigger, which means depopulation and lack of support for the small rural communities.

Changes in agricultural markets have raised questions about the future for rural America. Throughout the United States, rural populations are barely growing, or even dwindling, despite the recent agricultural commodity boom. Though rural America has historically been inextricably linked to agriculture, a smaller share of the country today is considered farm dependent. […] However, the nature of rural America has fundamentally shifted over the past 50 years. Citing USDA data, Partridge showed that in 1950, virtually all of rural America was farm dependent. By 2000, however, less than 20 percent of America’s rural (nonmetropolitan) counties were considered farm dependent.

In addition, a disturbing graph from the USDA shows us that since the financial crisis, the urban area economies are recovering rather well when we look at employment numbers, but the rural economies have barely come up at all. The featured time span happens to coincide with the ramp up in ethanol production due to the federal mandate.

I have written about rural demographics and trends a number of times before, and there are many factors that are contributing to sobering declines in rural statistics. Just last week I learned that the rural grade school that I went to in Nebraska is shuttering its doors because there are no rural children left in the area. They waited until they were down to three students. When I went, there were around 70.


Structural Transitions in Global Agriculture: A Summary of the 2014 Agricultural Symposium – By Nathan Kauffman, Assistant Vice President and Omaha Branch Executive.

Rural America at a Glance – 2014 Edition

Statistics on Global Family Farm Size

Over 500 million family farms produce the world’s food.

The vast majority of the world’s farms are small or very small, and in many lower-income countries farm sizes are becoming even smaller.

• Worldwide, farms of less than 1 hectare account for 72 percent of all farms but control only 8 percent of all agricultural land.

• Slightly larger farms between 1 and 2 hectares account for 12 percent of all farms and control 4 percent of the land.

• Farms in the range of 2 to 5 hectares account for 10 percent of all farms and control 7 percent of the land.

• In contrast, only 1 percent of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, but these few farms control 65 percent of the world’s agricultural land. Many of these large, and sometimes very large, farms are family-owned and operated.

The above graphic shows global farms by farm size covering a total of about 460 million farms in 111 countries. (Since this data is difficult to obtain, numbers are estimated.)

The highly skewed pattern of farm sizes at the global level largely reflects the dominance of very large farms in high-income and upper-middle-income countries and in countries where extensive livestock grazing is a dominant part of the agricultural system.

Land is somewhat more evenly distributed in the low-and lower-middle-income countries where more than 95 percent of all farms are smaller than 5 hectares. These farms occupy almost three-quarters of all farm land in the low-income countries and almost two-thirds in the lower- middle income group.

In contrast, farms larger than 50 hectares control only 2 percent and 11 percent, respectively, of the land in these income groups.

Source: FAO.