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One of the major industries in the US is farming. It contributes more than $100 billion to the economy. With such a huge figure in mind, it’s only natural to wonder the number of farmers in the industry who contribute to this figure,
Currently, there are about 2.6 million farmers in the United States. This makes up less than 1% of the total population of the country. 1.3% of the United States’ labor force are farmers.
So if you are wondering how these farmers are distributed according to their respective states, age, race, and how much income they make, read on to get enlightened!
What Percentage of Americans Are Farmers
Currently, the US farming industry is going through a tremendous shift. More and more people are moving away from this occupation owing to rapid development which has created a huge number of white-collar jobs. Farming is an occupation that is often tedious and requires hard labor. For this reason, most people opt to move to major cities to pursue careers.
This has affected the farming industry. But don’t get it twisted. There is still a substantial number of Americans who are farmers. Some of them have inherited large tracts of land which have been in their families for generations, so it’s only natural for them to carry on the family tradition.
Currently, in the US there are about 2 million farms. These farmlands stretch far and wide across all states. Farmers make up about 1.3% of the labor force in the US. Like we mentioned earlier, there are about 2.6 million farmers in the US which makes up less than 1% of the total US population (which is around 300 million people).
When you take a look at earlier years, however, the case is different. Back in 1840, farmers made up about 70% of the American workforce. In 1935, there were about 7 million farmers across the US.
Since 2007, the number of farmers has been steadily decreasing.
These figures go a long way in showing just how much there is a decline in the farming industry. This does not bode well for a rapidly growing economy with an increasing population.
Let’s take a look at the statistics from a state point of view.
What State Has the Most Farmers?
How many movies have you seen depicting Texas as vast farmland? Quite a lot, right? It should come as no surprise therefore that Texas is by far the leading state in terms of the number of farmers.
There are currently about 248,000 farmers in the state of Texas. The land under farming in Texas accounts for 130 million acres. 99% of this land is family-owned. In the 1940s there were approximately 420,000 farmers in Texas. So as you can see the number has hugely decreased in recent years.
But Texas is still the “bread-basket” of the US, accounting for most of the country’s farm produce.
What State Has the Least Number of Farmers?
Alaska has the least number of farmers in the US, despite it being the largest state at 365 million acres. Only 880,000 acres of this is used for farming. This accounts for 0.2% of the land. Alaska has around 500 farmers. Most of these farms are clustered in the North East of Anchorage. The main reason why there are so few farmers in Alaska can be attributed to the climate and the generally poor soil fertility.
These figures cast a light on the huge difference in the farming industry between the two states discussed above.
Are Farmers Rich in the USA?
Let’s face it. Farming is generally considered a humble occupation. Farming has been portrayed as a down to earth occupation that doesn’t pay well and farmers are viewed as some among the poorest people in the US. This however is very far from the truth.
Lots of people in the United States run multi-million dollar farms that contribute a huge portion of the nation’s food supply.
When you look at it from a perspective of assets, farmers are doing quite well for themselves. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average farm has a net worth of about $251,900. This includes land, equipment, and inventory.
But to bring things to a clearer perspective, it’s worth noting that a farmer is wealthier than the average American. 61% of farming households have a net worth of over $100,000. According to data by the USDA, a farmer receives an annual salary of about $76,000. This is quite a sizable amount.
Large farms with annual sales of $500,000 or more have an average net worth of $1,700,000 or more. They take advantage of their size and employ modern farming techniques and technologies.
Even smaller farms with annual sales of less than $10,000 have a significant net worth at $135,000.
It also helps that the federal government injects a total of about $14 billion in subsidies to farmers. This represents a gross cash income of about 5% for farms. This goes a long way in helping farmers to fund their operations which ultimately raises their incomes.
From all these figures, it’s safe to say that farmers in the USA are well off. A well operated and efficient farm can be a good source of income for most farmers. So this negates the assumption that farming is a humble and poor profession.
What Is the Average Age of a Farmer in the United States?
In 2017, the USDA conducted an Agricultural Census. The results that were obtained were a huge point of concern. The findings of the census showed that the number of young farmers in the industry was not at pace with the number of farmers who were aging out of the industry.
As of 2017, the average age of a farmer in the US was recorded as 57.5 years. This was an increase from the 56.3 years recorded in 2012. Arizona has the oldest farmers at an average age of 61 years while Nebraska has the lowest at 55.7 years.
It’s worth noting that from the first census carried out in 1945, this figure has steadily been rising.
This brings to mind a myriad of questions such as where will the next generation of farmers come from? Who will teach them farming skills and pass on knowledge and experience from one generation to the next? It’s truly a sad state of affairs because no more farmers means no more food for a rapidly increasing population.
The aging of farmers presents a challenge. With the population of the US expected to rise to about 500 million in 2050, one can only wonder whether there will be enough farmers to feed the entire future population.
But what exactly is the reason for the aging of today’s farmers? The answer is increased costs. From taxes to insurance to loans to fuels and supplies, it has become hard for gray farmers to put their tools down and let the younger generation take their place.
All these costs have made it hard for the younger generation to buy out their predecessors and take over their farms. Young farmers simply can’t afford to buy-in. The prices of farmlands are also on the rise and this makes it hard for younger farmers to acquire new tracts of land for farming activities.
Another thing worth noting is that there is an increase in the number of corporate farmers and a decrease in family-owned farms. This has created a situation where there are fewer young farmers. More and more families are discouraging their children from taking part in farming since they view the competition as too much. To them, farming has become too much of a liability.
What this means is that there are barriers to new farmers. Consequently, this implies barriers to national food security.
So the steadily rising average age of US farmers has created a whole world of uncertainties which should be addressed if the nation’s future food security is to be secured.
What Percentage of US Farmers Are White?
Farming in the US is intertwined with race in such a way that it impacts who owns, accesses, and benefits from farmland. Of the country’s 2.6 million farmers, more than 93% are white.
Iowa is the whitest farming state with about 99.3% of farmers being non-Hispanic whites. Hawaii is on the furthest end of the spectrum with just 33.8% of farmers being non-Hispanic whites.
But it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t examine the composition of the other races. Hispanics make up 3.3% of the total number of farmers in the US, Native Americans or Native Alaskans 1.7%, African Americans 1.3%, Asians 0.6%, and Native Hawaiians 0.1%.
So from this data, it’s evident that out of the total number of farmers in the US, Whites are the most.
Farmers play an important role in the economy of the US. They are essential for ensuring the country’s food security now and in future years.