August 14, 2013

Small farms increase, big dollar farms decline in 2010

Capital Press

There were 25,700 farms and ranches in Idaho in 2010, up 200 from the year before, according to a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service report released Feb. 11.

While the number of the smallest farms, with sales under $10,000, grew by 400, the decrease in the largest farms, with sales $250,000 and above, dropped by a whopping 300.
NASS doesn't separate farms by types, but Molly Conn, ag statistician with Idaho NASS, said it's safe to assume those drops in farm sales were mostly attributed to struggling dairy operations.
"Dairy is the largest cash receipts in the state; it affects a larger portion of operations," she said. "Prices were fairly strong outside of dairy."
With a recovery in the dairy industry, numbers could rebound for farms in those top sales categories in 2011. But the numbers do show a rising trend in small farms.
"I think with more emphasis on local buying and farmers' markets, that growth is occurring in small farms," said Vince Matthews, director of the Idaho NASS field office.
Canyon County Educator Arial Agenbroad said she sees a trend in the growth of small farms, some not much bigger than a backyard.
"I definitely agree with those numbers," she said.
Canyon County extension has hosted a number of small-farm, small-acreage workshops over the past few years, and participation has been robust, she said.
Certified organic operations are also growing in the state, said Brandon Lamb, program manager for the state's certified organic program.
"We do seem to have a ton of applications come in between $0 and $2,000, based on previous year's sales," he said.
While his department doesn't tally organic operations certified through private inspectors, USDA showed a 9 percent increase in Idaho organic operations in 2010 over 2009.
That USDA number in September 2010 was 335 and also includes such organic operations as processors, breweries and handlers. ISDA certified operations were 11 in 1990 and 192 in 2000.
There's always some shifting between the economic classes of farms, said Conn. Operators who move in and out are smaller, because it's easier to get rid of an entire small herd, for example, and come back in when prices improve, she said.
Another scenario is that hay growers, who may have gotten out because of high input costs, may have re-entered because hay prices have improved and would be coming in at the lower economic bracket, she said.
In the other economic brackets, Idaho's farm numbers were up 100 at the $10,000 to $99,999 level, remained steady at the $100,000 to $249,999 level, decreased 100 at the $250,000 to $499,999 level, and decreased 200 at the $500,000 and above level.
Shifts at those higher levels are heavily dependent on the crop year and fluctuate with crop yields and commodity prices, Conn said.
Total land in farms in Idaho, at 11.4 million acres, was unchanged from 2009 and 2008. The average size of a farm was 444 acres in 2010, down from 447 acres in 2009.
The number of U.S. farms in 2010 is estimated at 2.2 million, virtually unchanged from 2009. Total land in farms, at 920 million acres, increased 100,000 acres from 2009. The average farm size was 418 acres, unchanged from 2009.
U.S. beef operations decreased from 751,000 in 2009 to 742,000 in 2010. Dairy operations decreased from 65,000 to 62,500. Hog and pig operations decreased from 71,450 to 69,100, and sheep operations decreased from 82,000 to 81,000.
Government payments, such as conservation payments, are included in sales.

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