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Farm News Editorial

By Staff | May 15, 2015

Family farms have been at the heart of American agriculture since early in the nation’s history. While the demographics of rural life are changing, the centrality of the owner-operated farms has remained a key aspect of the agricultural sector.

In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported data that underlines the continued role of family-owned farms. This analysis was based on the data assembled for the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

“Family-owned businesses, while very diverse, are at the core of the U.S. agriculture industry,” said NASS Statistics Division Director Hubert Hamer in a statement issued March 17. “In fact, 97 percent of all U.S. farms are family-owned.”

The USDA defines a family farm as “any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator, including through blood, marriage, or adoption.”

The USDA shared what it said were the five key facts that Americans should know about our country’s family farms:

  • Food equals family – 97 percent of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are family-owned operations.
  • Small business matters – 88 percent of all U.S. farms are small family farms.
  • Local connections come in small packages – 58 percent of all direct farm sales to consumers come from small family farms.
  • Big business matters too – 64 percent of all vegetable sales and 66 percent of all dairy sales come from the 3 percent of farms that are large or very large family farms.
  • Farming provides new beginnings – 18 percent of principal operators on family farms in the U.S. started within the last 10 years.

The key takeaway from the department’s data is that family farms still produce “food and fiber for people all across the U.S. and the world.”

Some people worry that corporate farming is modality that will characterize American agriculture in the years ahead. The USDA data demonstrate convincingly that family farms are thriving and still a vital part of U.S. agriculture.

That’s very good news indeed.

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