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American Farms Keep Growing: Size, Productivity, and Policy

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  • Daniel A. Sumner

Abstract

Commercial agriculture in the United States is comprised of several hundred thousand farms, and these farms continue to become larger and fewer. The size of commercial farms is sometimes best-measured by sales, in other cases by acreage, and in still other cases by quantity produced of specific commodities, but for many commodities, size has doubled and doubled again in a generation. This article summarizes the economics of commercial agriculture in the United States, focusing on growth in farm size and other changes in size distribution in recent decades. I also consider the relationships between farm size distributions and farm productivity growth and farm subsidy policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel A. Sumner, 2014. "American Farms Keep Growing: Size, Productivity, and Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(1), pages 147-166, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:28:y:2014:i:1:p:147-66
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.1.147
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.28.1.147
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Daniel A. Sumner & James D. Leiby, 1987. "An Econometric Analysis of the Effects of Human Capital on Size and Growth among Dairy Farms," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 69(2), pages 465-470.
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    5. Jeremy D. Foltz, 2004. "Entry, Exit, and Farm Size: Assessing an Experiment in Dairy Price Policy," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 86(3), pages 594-604.
    6. Dimitri, Carolyn & Effland, Anne & Conklin, Neilson C., 2005. "The 20th Century Transformation of U.S. Agriculture and Farm Policy," Economic Information Bulletin 59390, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    7. Joseph W. Glauber, 2013. "The Growth Of The Federal Crop Insurance Program, 1990--2011," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 95(2), pages 482-488.
    8. Key, Nigel D. & Roberts, Michael J., 2007. "Commodity Payments, Farm Business Survival, and Farm Size Growth," Economic Research Report 55968, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    9. Roberto Mosheim & C.A. Knox Lovell, 2007. "Scale Economies and Inefficiency of U.S. Dairy Farms," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(3), pages 777-794.
    10. Gardner, Bruce L, 1992. "Changing Economic Perspectives on the Farm Problem," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 62-101, March.
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    12. White, T. Kirk & Hoppe, Robert A., 2012. "Changing Farm Structure and the Distribution of Farm Payments and Federal Crop Insurance," Economic Information Bulletin 120309, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    13. Brown, Jason P. & Weber, Jeremy, 2013. "The Off-Farm Occupations of U.S. Farm Operators and Their Spouses," Economic Information Bulletin 156535, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Beghin, John C. & Meade, Birgit Gisela Saager & Rosen, Stacey, 2014. "A Consistent Food Demand Framework for International Food Security Assessment," Proceedings Issues, 2014: Food, Resources and Conflict, December 7-9, 2014, San Diego, California 197167, International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium.
    2. Mark Brown & Shon M. Ferguson & Crina Viju, 2017. "Agricultural Trade Reform, Reallocation and Technical Change: Evidence from the Canadian Prairies," NBER Chapters,in: Agricultural Productivity and Producer Behavior National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Wang, Sun Ling & Newton, Doris J., 2015. "Productivity and Efficiency of U.S. Field Crop Farms: A Look at Farm Size and Operator’s Gender," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205344, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.
    4. Wenbiao Cai, 2015. "Technology, Policy Distortions and the Rise of Large Farms," Departmental Working Papers 2015-03, The University of Winnipeg, Department of Economics.
    5. Bachewe, Fantu Nisrane & Berhane, Guush & Minten, Bart & Taffesse, Alemayehu Seyoum, 2015. "Agricultural growth in Ethiopia (2004-2014): Evidence and drivers:," ESSP working papers 81, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Bollman, Ray & Ferguson, Shon, 2016. "The Local Impacts of Agricultural Subsidies: Evidence from the Canadian Prairies," Working Paper Series 1129, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    7. Headey, Derek, 2015. "The Evolution of Global Farming Land: Facts and Interpretations," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 212027, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    8. repec:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:286-298 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Nittai K. Bergman & Rajkamal Iyer & Richard T. Thakor, 2015. "Financial Accelerator at Work: Evidence from Corn Fields," NBER Working Papers 21086, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy

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