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U.S. Small Farms: Decline and Persistence?


  • MacDonald, James M.
  • Hoppe, Robert A.
  • Korb, Penelope J.
  • O'Donoghue, Erik J.


We use two comprehensive and representative USDA databases to assess the performance of small farms in the U.S. Farm production is shifting to much larger farms, and the number of small commercial farms is declining. Most large U.S. farms remain family-owned and operated enterprises, and most remain small businesses by U.S. standards. Small commercial farms tend to focus on three commodities: beef cattle, grains and oilseeds, and poultry. On average, large farm financial returns substantially exceed those on small farms, but the range of performance among small farms is quite wide. About one quarter of the nearly 800,000 small commercial farms show very good financial returns.

Suggested Citation

  • MacDonald, James M. & Hoppe, Robert A. & Korb, Penelope J. & O'Donoghue, Erik J., 2009. "U.S. Small Farms: Decline and Persistence?," 111th Seminar, June 26-27, 2009, Canterbury, UK 52870, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:eaa111:52870

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tauer, Loren W. & Mishra, Ashok K., 2006. "Can the small dairy farm remain competitive in US agriculture?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 458-468, October.
    2. Parikh, A & Edwards, R, 1980. "Structural Analysis and Forecasts of Commodity Imports Using Cross-Section Relationships," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 5(2), pages 109-127.
    3. Battese, G E & Coelli, T J, 1995. "A Model for Technical Inefficiency Effects in a Stochastic Frontier Production Function for Panel Data," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 325-332.
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    More about this item


    small farms; structural change; farm income; Agricultural and Food Policy; Q12;

    JEL classification:

    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets

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