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Measuring and causes of inequality in farm sizes in the United States

  • Dragan Miljkovic

This article examines the notion of farm size inequality expressed as sales inequality in the United States. The farm size index (FSI) is developed as a measure of farm size inequality. FSIs are calculated for the farming sector in all 50 states and large variation in farm size across the states and over time is determined. The largest FSIs are calculated for a number of Southern, Southwestern, and Pacific states. Increasing FSIs over time are observed in all states as well. The spatial and temporal (between 1987 and 1997) differences in FSIs are explained by running a pooled, cross-sectional time-series model. The most influential variables accounting for the differences have to do with the ownership structure, where a larger presence of individual and family farms relative to corporate farms and cooperatives leads to a lower degree of farm size inequality. Also, states and regions having relatively larger number of farms owned by minorities have higher FSIs. Shrinking opportunities in the agricultural sector relative to the rest of the economy, primarily services, are reflected in a declining share of agricultural sector state income in total gross state product (GSP). This in turn leads to an increase in the farming sector's FSI suggesting that only larger, more profitable operations are the likely candidates to pursue farming activities. Finally, grains farming regions have all lower degree of farm size inequality than livestock or fruits and vegetables regions. Profitable grains farming requires relatively large farm size and equipment investments, which leads to a relatively homogeneous structure of grains farms. A larger variation in the size of profitable farm operations is possible in fruits and vegetables and livestock. This leads to the existence of a large number of very small but still sustainable farms, and a relatively small number of large farms that capture most of market sales share. Copyright 2005 International Association of Agricultural Economics.

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Article provided by International Association of Agricultural Economists in its journal Agricultural Economics.

Volume (Year): 33 (2005)
Issue (Month): 1 (07)
Pages: 21-27

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Handle: RePEc:bla:agecon:v:33:y:2005:i:1:p:21-27
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