39% of Farms Have Multiple Operators

February 3, 2017 02:34 PM

The latest data from USDA-ERS suggests that nearly 40% of U.S. farms are run by more than one operator.

From the agency’s featured chart on Jan. 26, ERS notes: “Commercial-sized farms often require more management and labor than an individual can provide. Having a secondary operator may also provide a successor when an older principal operator phases out of farming.”


The incidence of multiple operators does indeed correlate with farm size. Different so-called small farms had multiple operators between 34% and 40% of the time, while this is true of midsize family farms 45% of the time and 55% of the time for large family farms. On non-family farms, nearly all (85%) are managed by multiple operators.

“Because nearly all farms are family owned, family members often serve as secondary operators; nearly two-thirds of all secondary operators were spouses of principal operators,” ERS notes.

This data was obtained by the 2015 Agricultural Resource Management Survey

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Spell Check

Nathan Mulder
Ridott, IL
2/4/2017 09:03 AM

  Without "multiple operators" how many of these large scale farms would be able to collect the number of government program dollars they do without hitting the cap on payments. Seems like a pretty obvious scam to me. Most spouses of farmers are involved in the day to day decision making and operation of the farm, but they don't need to collect a separate set of program payments. That would be the real 'story' behind the data.

Tinker, AL
2/6/2017 09:13 AM

  I am being penalized by the payment limit. I farm 10,000 acres and hit the payment cap all the time. It would not be money just going in my pocket because I have 6 full time and several seasonal employees. My farm supports all of their families. The lawmakers don't take that into consideration. Last year when the Arc payment was $70-$90/ acre I got about $30.


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