Farms

Biofuels and climate markets could stem loss of farms, says Vilsack

The decades-long decline in the number of U.S. farms can be stanched by adopting climate-smart farming practices and crops, increasing biofuel production, and expanding local and regional marketing, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the largest U.S. farm group on Monday. There are 2 million farms in operation today; the number of farms peaked at 6.8 million in the 1930s.

California studies what a carbon-neutral future means for its lands

In a carbon-neutral future, California’s farmers could plant water-conserving crops enriched by composting, the result of widespread carbon farming. Socially disadvantaged farmers could become more empowered. Farmworkers could be healthier and better paid. An ambitious report from the California Natural Resource Agency proposes major potential changes to the state’s agricultural sector in response to climate change. (No paywall)

Farmers’ share of food dollar is shrinking

A decade ago, farmers received 17.6 cents of each $1 spent on food by Americans. Their share now is barely above 14 cents while processors, retailers and others in the food chain take a larger share, according to USDA economists, who have tracked the farmer/marketer relationship for a quarter century.

Farmland values rise despite turbulent year

The average acre of farmland in Iowa, the top corn-growing state, is worth $7,559, an increase of 1.7 percent from 2019, despite the effects of the pandemic and the accompanying economic slowdown, said Iowa State University on Tuesday. It was the second year in a row of modest increases but land values remain $1,157 below their 2013 peak hit during the commodity boom.

Rising share of farm income comes from off-farm work

New estimates from USDA say that this year, 82 percent of farm income will come from off-farm jobs. That’s up from just 53 percent in 1960, demonstrating how falling farm incomes have turned “what was once a way of life into a part-time job,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

What beginning farmers want from the USDA

In a survey, beginning farmers say some of their biggest headaches are USDA paperwork and uncooperative staff at their local USDA office. "These challenges are solvable," said the National Young Farmers Coalition, which recommends USDA train some of the county office staff in dealing with new farmers and also asks USDA to "go small" in fitting its programs to the needs of young farmers, who usually have small operations.

Lost in California wildfires: North Bay vegetable farms

The wildfires in northern California destroyed vegetable farms in Sonoma County, "including several that were founded in the past six years by young farmers taking part in the local organic farm movement," says the San Francisco Chronicle. Growers lost homes and farm buildings and say that getting back into production will be an uphill battle.

Large operators take a bigger share of U.S. farming

The largest U.S. farming operations, those with more than $500,000 in annual sales, control a seemingly ever-growing portion of the country's farmland. The annual Farms and Land in Farms report by USDA says big farmers operated 41.2 percent, or 376 million acres, of the 913 million acres of land in farms in 2015.