Dairy farmers may have to get big to survive, says Perdue

In a state losing two dairy farms a day, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Tuesday that it’s hard to make a living with a small herd of cows. The “economies of scale having happened in America—big get bigger and small go out,” Perdue said at a dairy show in Wisconsin, …

Family farming on a precipice, Wisconsin farmers warn

Corporate consolidation and low commodity prices are posing an existential threat to small, family farms, farmers warned at an event hosted by the Wisconsin Farmers Union in Madison last week. Several producers, from small organic growers to commodity milk farmers, shared stories about how tough farming has become.

Spanish pigs touch down in Georgia, birthing a new ham

For centuries, a coveted type of ham — jamón ibérico de bellota — has been produced from a special breed of pigs in Spain. Now a Georgia farmer is aiming to create an American version of the iconic food, writes Maryn McKenna in FERN’s latest story, produced with Eater. No paywall

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.

Big farms get bigger as U.S. farm numbers get smaller

U.S. farm numbers continue to drift lower, dropping to 2.048 million according to a USDA survey conducted last June, only a shadow of their peak during the Depression. At the same time that the total falls, the portion of land operated by the biggest farms, the powerhouses with more than $1 million a year in sales, continues to grow, now covering a quarter of all farmland.

Small farms, despite hardship, get less U.S. farm support

A new report from the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service found that as much as 75 percent of small farms in the U.S. are experiencing serious financial risks, compared to around 30 percent of large farms. The report, “America’s Diverse Family Farms,” concluded that despite their high level of risk, small farmers are also less likely to receive government farm supports, which disproportionately are allocated towards large-scale farms.

Foraging, the newest step in hyper-local craft beer

In the small town of Ava in southern Illinois, brewers Marika Josephson and Aaron Kleidon take a look outside when they need ingredients for their brewery. With a garden on their property and a "commitment to sourcing their hops and malt close to home," Scratch Brewery "is part of a new movement of breweries that want to use foraged beers—beverages brewed with wild ingredients sourced hyper-locally—to educate drinkers about agriculture," says Civil Eats.

In California, looking in the hedgerow for a cash crop

Four farmers in California's Central Valley are part of a two-year project to see if elderberry bushes, commonly grown in hedgerows along the boundaries of a field, can be a profitable crop. The blue elderberry, a native plant in California, produces clusters of small, bluish-black berries with a sweet-tart flavor, says the University of California's agriculture and natural resources division.

House bill expands access to crop insurance for small and beginning farmers

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan unveiled a bill to make crop insurance available at lower cost to beginning farmers, and to make it easier for diversified farmers to get insurance. Less than 50 percent of small farmers, including organic, livestock, fruit and vegetable, and direct-to-consumer operations, have crop insurance, says a small-farm advocacy group.