Rosie – June 1996 – May 2011
Vegetable and melon production is a diverse, complex, management intensive, and little-subsidized business in the United States. It is also among the more financially successful components of U.S. agriculture. Today, the industry faces an array of challenges:
• Chronic farm labor shortages
• Strong competition in export markets
• Pressure in domestic markets from low-cost imports
• Food safety concerns
• Competition for land and water from both urban encroachment and
• Rising input prices
How the vegetable and melon production industry stands up to these challenges depends in large part on the financial well-being of the backbone of this agricultural sector—the growers.
As measured in a variety of ways, vegetable and melon farms are an important component of U.S. agriculture. U.S. production of vegetables and melons occurs on less than 7 million acres, about 2 percent of all harvested cropland. From this small footprint, however, comes a diverse set of high-value products, which generated 14 percent of all farm crop cash receipts and 6 percent of U.S. farm export value during 2005-07 (USDA, ERS(g)). U.S. per capita consumption of all fresh and processing vegetables averaged 435 pounds during 2005-07, down slightly from 1995-97 but 12 percent above 1985-87.
The very large farms accounted for 87 percent of the total value of vegetables produced by all specialized vegetable farms and tend to be concentrated in the West. Vegetable and melon farms that produced less than $40,000 worth of commodities (small farms) per year made up 67 percent of these farms yet accounted for just 1 percent of the total value of U.S. vegetable production. Small farms are largely concentrated in the South. As with most agricultural commodities, vegetable production has become increasingly concentrated over time as larger, more efficient farms have garnered a greater share of the domestic market.