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Farm Household Income to Rise Slightly Even as Operational Losses Mount

Off-Farm Earnings Forecast to Increase in 2017, USDA Says

Total farm household income will rise slightly in 2017 after remaining flat last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) said in a report.

Median total farm household income will rise 1.7% to $77,551 this year, according to the USDA. Farm income – earnings from on-farm operations – is forecast at a negative-$1,093 this year, down from a loss of $940 in 2016, the government said. 

“In recent years, slightly more than half of farm households have lost money on their farming operations each year,” the USDA said. “Most of these households earn positive off-farm income – and median off-farm income is forecast to increase 2.3%, from $66,468 in 2016 to $67,973 in 2017.”

Because farm and off-farm income are not distributed identically for every farm, median total income will generally not equal the sum of median off-farm and median farm income, according to the report. 

Median total farm household income peaked in 2014 at $81,637, then fell in 2015, was steady in 2016, and is expected to rise slightly this year. 

The USDA also said in the report that the number of family farms will remain steady at about 2.03 million in 2017 after falling in 2015 and 2016. So-called residential farms that numbered 1.23 million last year still comprise the bulk of total farms in the U.S., according to the government.


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