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.
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.
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.
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.