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Crop Production Shifts to Bigger Farms

Big farms, with at least $1 million in sales, dominate U.S. crop production, say USDA economists who studied farm consolidation trends. In dollar value, half of U.S. crops come from the biggest farms, compared with 31% in 1991. Consolidation occurred in most crop and livestock sectors but not in grazing and pastureland, said James Macdonald and Robert Hoppe.

Mechanization and technological innovations such as chemical pesticides and GMO crops “likely play an important role” by reducing the demand for labor and allow one person to handle more acres or animals than in earlier decades.

Acreage shifted to larger farms along with the value of production. In 2012, 36% of U.S. cropland was on a farm of at least 2,000 acres – more than double the 15% of 1987. In that year, half of corn was grown on farms with at least 200 acres of corn and half came from farms with less than that much corn acreage. By 2002, the midpoint was 600 acres.

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

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