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More Than You’d Think

June 11, 2009
By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor

Linda Smith, Top Producer Executive Editor
Knowing that the average age of farmers is in the mid-50s, you might be surprised to learn that using USDA's definition of a beginning farmer/rancher (in business for 10 years or less), they make up about a quarter of operators.
  • 15% = principal beginning operators (new farms)
  • 7% = other beginning operators on new farms
  • 3% = less experienced operators on established farms
The most beginning farms produce poultry; the least, cotton and rice:
Poultry 20%
Dairy 17%
Cattle 16%
Cash grains 15%
Nursery / Vegetables 10%
Other 8%
Hogs 6%
Fruit / Tree Nuts 5%
Cotton / Rice 3%
As you might expect, beginning farmers/ranchers account for a smaller percentage of production: Although 22% of all farms are beginning farms, they produce only 10% of the value of all ag products and account for only 10% of the land in farm operations. They represent the highest percent of poultry production, at 20%, and the least of cash grains, at about 6%.


You can e-mail Linda Smith at

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