Information for this piece came via Chuck Abbott of the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN).
Background: Agricultural Economic Insights: Perspectives of Two Agricultural Economists is a blog written by David Widmar and Brent Gloy. Widmar is an academic at Purdue; Gloy has held tenured positions at Purdue and Cornell. Both are farmers in the Midwest.
The story: In response to the recently released 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture – these are conducted every five years – Widmar has offered some interesting speculations. Among them? “The unprecedented concentration of older producers will likely drive a faster pace of farm size growth in the future.”
He also says this:
“…the most recent data (2012) reveals a distribution with no bell-shape at all. The largest group of producers is now those older than 65 years, representing a full one-third of all producers. Even more obvious is how few young producers there are. In 2012, those under 45 years only represent 16% of total producers…
While the average age of the US farmer is likely to continue increasing, the distribution of farmers’ age will create the most significant changes in agriculture…As older producers exit, fewer producers will remain and, as a result, the average – or typical- farm size will likely increase. While additional operators could enter production mid-career, it would not be at a one-for-one rate needed to replace those at the oldest age category.
It’s important to point out that the trend is not an alarm for “running out” of farms or food. We are quite confident the U.S. farm sector will handle it quite well. However, this trend represents a significant transition that will take place within the industry. The amount of resources controlled by these aging producers is substantial. How these resources transition will have implications for nearly every agribusiness and farmer.”
You can read David Widmar’s full blog posting here: