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United States Department of Agriculture
National Agricultural Statistics Service

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  Trends in U.S. Agriculture

Farm Numbers and Land in Farms

Two significant trends occurring in the agricultural sector during the past century involved the increased use of machines and government price supports. These factors combined to encourage operators to increase the size of their farms and gain efficiencies.

The purchase of farm inputs, such as machinery, required an increasing amount of capital and fewer individuals were willing or able to take on the debt necessary to farm. Large cash outlays for farm equipment increased specialization, and operators began producing larger quantities of a limited number of products.

As a result, fewer farms were needed to meet the demand for agricultural products and a pronounced structural change in the agricultural sector took place. The market value of agricultural production became concentrated on fewer and fewer farms.

Total farm and ranch acreage increased steadily during the first half of the 20th century, due in large part to development in the Great Plains and Far West where land policy encouraged continued conversion of large tracts of arid government lands to agricultural uses. Acreage declined later in the century, when increased production was achieved through efficiency rather than through additional acreage.

Downloadable CSV data


Chart of Average Farm Size
Chart of Number of Farms
Chart of Farm Acreage



Last modified: 08/11/09

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