Number of farms still declining

Monday, March 3, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The number of farms in Missouri fell to about 107,000 last year, continuing a decline that's been going on for many years, the federal agriculture department said.

The number of Missouri farms was down about 1 percent from 2001. The average farm size in 2002 was estimated at 279 acres, up 2 acres from the previous year.

"It's part of the economics of agriculture where it's really tough to make much of a living on these farms anymore unless you're really large," said Gene Danekas, the Columbia-based state statistician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About 50 years ago, Missouri had 222,000 farms.

This year's decline was typical of recent years, Danekas said.

"Urban encroachment takes a few farms each year; some older folks quit farming and sell the farm to the neighbor," Danekas said. "There's nothing unusual about it."

A farm is defined as any establishment from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were sold or would normally be sold during the year.

Missouri farms in the economic sales class of $1,000 to $9,999 were estimated at 61,300, down slightly from a year earlier. Farms in the sales group of $10,000 to $99,999 totaled 35,400, down 2 percent from last year. The $100,000 and over group was estimated at 10,300, also down about 2 percent.

The number of farms in the United States in 2002 was estimated at 2.16 million, up 0.1 percent from 2001. The increase in farms occurred primarily in agricultural operations with $1,000 to $9,999 in sales. The average size of a farm was 436 acres, a decrease of one acre from 2001.

The national increase in the number of farms and total acreage primarily resulted from the inclusion of pasture only farms in the 2002 survey.

The number of farms increased in nine states, remained roughly unchanged in 32 states and decreased in nine states. The states with farm declines of more than 1,000 included California, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Tennessee.

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