Category Archives: farm statistics

The Earth’s Land Use (Cover) Breakdown from the FAO

The FAO has released a new database that summarizes land cover on our lovely planet, drawing from satellite and other types of data resources. Combining the sources of information available to us today in this way has never been done before and will help aid in assessing the future of food production and its sustainability. The database is called “Global Land Cover SHARE database”.

Next, is the general category breakdown from the report. It looks like we’ve paved over .6 percent of the Earth’s land surface. That is quite an Anthropocene feat.

The FAO’s new database includes eleven global land cover layers, and here are the percentages allocated to each one:

artificial surfaces (which cover 0.6 percent of the Earth’s surface)
bare soils (15.2 percent)
croplands (12.6 percent)
grasslands (13.0 percent)
herbaceous vegetation (1.3 percent)
inland water bodies (2.6 percent)
mangroves (0.1 percent)
shrub-covered areas (9.5 percent)
snow and glaciers (9.7 percent)
sparse vegetation (7.7 percent)
tree-covered areas (27.7 percent)


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.