The Tax Foundation periodically comes out with good information on tax statistics. They recently issued a report on corporate investment in equipment for tax year 2012. My perception has been that most of the equipment purchased during 2012 was new equipment. Based on this report, my perception may be in error (or not).
is compared to other industries (at least for corporations). For 2012, over $705 billion of corporate investments was made and farms only spent $5.4 billion of this amount (less than 1%). Now, most farms are operated as either a sole proprietor or a partnership, but agriculture is still a small player compared to manufacturing or other industries.
The report listed the amount of investment shown on Form 4562 (the depreciation schedule) that was deducted using bonus depreciation. 50% bonus depreciation is allowed to be used on new equipment and other new farm buildings. I would have expected about 75% of farm assets placed in service would be new equipment. However, the report showed for farmers that only 24.8% of the investments were new (or at least elected bonus depreciation).
Now, if we think about if further, most farm investments in equipment by farm corporations during 2012 was likely less than $500,000. These corporate farmers would have elected Section 179 on these investments (since you take Section 179 first), therefore the remaining assets left may have been farm buildings that may not qualify for Section 179 or bonus depreciation or used equipment that you cannot take bonus depreciation on.
The bottom line is that farmers made equipment investments in 2012 and the statistics likely show that a lot of that investment was deducted using Section 179.