USDA: Net farm income hits record high, but fewer farms exist

Are there fewer small farms? Image of red barn on family farm
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  • U.S. farms shrinking in number, size a problem.
  • Net farm income reached record highs.
  • Local food systems offer bright spot.
  • Renewable energy potential not fully captured.
  • Vilsack: Policy shift is key to a diverse ag sector.

February 20, 2024 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a warning last week following the release of the 2022 Census of Agriculture, calling for a sweeping policy shift to stem the tide of farm consolidation.

“America, and especially our rural communities, cannot afford this trajectory toward larger, but fewer, farms,” Vilsack statedOpens in a new tab..

He stressed that trade wars, the COVID-19 pandemic, and policies promoting farm consolidation have driven a sharp decline in the number of operational farms since the previous Census in 2017. However, Vilsack also noted some important signs for optimism.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to invest in local and regional food systems, boost independent meat processing, and encourage renewable energy adoption by farmers may help reverse these trends. While not yet evident in the census data, these initiatives are designed to bolster farm income and ensure more farmers of all sizes remain viable.

“There are some early signs that this approach is working,” Vilsack observed. “Over the first three years of the Biden-Harris Administration, the United States experienced the highest net farm income on recordOpens in a new tab., and we’ve also seen growth in the rural population for the first time in a decade.”

Vilsack emphasized the need for continued work to solidify this progress, calling on the agriculture sector to seize the moment and support policies that will create a more vibrant and inclusive future for U.S. agriculture.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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