Recent USDA survey shows South Dakota farm size triples that of the rest of the U.S.
The USDA recently published the Farms and Land in Farms – 2014 Summary, which classified average farm size in the U.S. by sales class.
This 2014 summary showed the U.S. had 2.08 million farms. South Dakota had 31,700 farms in 43.3 million acres with an average farm size of 1,353 acres. This compared to a nationwide average of 438 acres per farm and a total of 913 million acres in farms.
“Farm numbers and size follow similar trends when compared to livestock and other operations, with numbers dwindling while size increases,” said Alvaro Garcia, Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Director & Professor.
Garcia explained that the USDA classified farm numbers and land in farms in six economic classes by adding up sales of agricultural products and government program payments. These classes are as follows:
Group 1. $1,000-$9,999;
Group 2. $10,000+;
Group 3. $100,000+;
Group 4. $250,000+;
Group 5. $500,000+; and
Group 6. $1,000,000
“Between 2013 and 2014 the only group that declined in numbers was group 1 with all others increasing,” Garcia said.
He went on to explain that groups 3 and 5 had the largest increases at 1.4 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. “The majority of farms in the U.S. are smaller operations,” he said, noting that 51 percent of all farms in the U.S. fall into group 1 with 80 percent included within groups 1 and 2.
“There are slightly over 1 million farms in group 1. When group 2 is combined with 1 the number climbs to 1.66 million,” he said. “Groups 3 through 6 on the other hand constitute only 19.6 percent of the total.”
Average acres farmed by each group are as follows:
Group 1. 86 acres;
Group 2. 312 acres;
Group 3. 889 acres;
Group 4. 1,290 acres;
Group 5. 1,887 acres; and
Group 6. 2,655 acres.
“One additional interesting figure is the change in acres in farms by the different groups. Groups 5 and 6 increased their acreage significantly. Groups 1 and 3 had the largest reductions with negative 4.5 percent and negative 1.5 percent, respectively,” Garcia said. “Interestingly enough, there were negligible changes for groups 2 and 4 of less than negative 0.01 percent.”
What this says about South Dakota’s farms
“South Dakota is clearly an agricultural state, farm size triples that of the rest of the U.S. with one farm every 25 people compared to one every 154 for the nation” Garcia said.
Garcia summarizes South Dakota results of the survey below:
Group 1 had 8,300 farms (26.1 percent of the total), had 1.2 million acres in farms, with a farm size on average of 145 acres. This group decreased by 6.7 percent since last year with acres per farm remaining almost unchanged.
Group 2 had 9,700 farms (30.6 percent of the total) during 2014, with 5.1 million acres in farms, and an average farm size of 526 acres. “Group 2 in South Dakota had 68.6 percent more land per operation for the same amount of sales compared to the rest of the country. In spite of this “apparent inefficiency” this group however increased farm numbers by 2.1 percent since 2013,” Garcia said.
Group 3 with 4,400 farms (13.9 percent of the total) showed a retraction (-2.2 percent) in numbers from the year before. This group has 5.5 million acres in farms with an average size of 1,250 acres per farm.
Farms in Group 4 with 3,500 (11 percent of the total) dropped by 7.9 percent, had 7.2 million acres in farms with an average of 2,057 acres per farm.
Farms in Group 5 with 3,300 (10.4 percent of the total) increased by 13.7 percent, had 11.2 million acres in farms and an average of 3,394 acres.
Finally, Group 6 with 2,500 (7.9 percent of the total) increased by 4.2 percent, with 13.1 million acres in farms and an average of 5,240 acres.
“From this analysis it can be inferred that in South Dakota it is again Group 1 (negative 6.7 percent) which has the greatest risk to its sustainability,” Garcia said. “Group 2 on the other hand showed an interesting, encouraging growth since 2013.”
In spite of South Dakota’s larger operations, South Dakota farms that fit into sales groups 1 and 2 make up 56.7 percent of the total farms in the state.
“Oddly enough it was the middle-sized farms that took the greatest hit in numbers. Both groups 3 and 4 showed quite a significant reduction with negative 2.2 and negative 7.9, respectively,” he said. “Similar to the rest of the country, farms in groups 5 and 6 increased and were responsible for more acres farmed, mostly because more farms entered this group and not because of a significant increase in farm size.”
Farms that sell less than $10,000 in agricultural products have their sustainability compromised both in the U.S. and in South Dakota, explained Garcia. “These farms are roughly under 86 and 145 acres for the U.S. and South Dakota, respectively. On these smaller operations, sales may compromise the adoption of cutting edge technologies and the reaping of the benefits of efficiencies of scale,” Garcia said. “Larger farms with greater overall sales are usually more attractive to the agricultural allied industry with increased technical support which entice them to farm more acres usually resulting in higher sales.”
However, Garcia added, smaller operations, like those in groups 1 and 2 combined still constitute one-third (31.1 percent) of all U.S. farmland, and more than 80 percent of U.S. farms.
“This makes Group 1 and 2 farms a significant group for U.S. agriculture. South Dakota also shows the relevance of these two groups which combined represent a relatively smaller portion of the acreage at 14.5 percent but more than half of the total farms in the state (56.7 percent)” he said.