In honor of National Ag Week, the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service has compiled data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology report profiling family farms in the United States.
The report shows that family-owned farms continue to form the core of American agriculture, with 97 percent of 2.1 million farms classified as family farms. Those farms vary widely of course, with some being large businesses employing many non-family members and some being very small in acreage and revenue.
Even so, NASS classifies 88 percent of U.S. family farms as small farms, defined as having gross cash farm cash income (GCFI) of less than $350,000 annually. While their contribution to total agricultural sales is small relative to their number, small family farms account for 58 percent of all direct farm sales to consumers.
Large family farming operations, which NASS defines as having annual GCFI of $1 million or more, account for just three percent of family farms. They produce, however, 64 percent of vegetable sales, 66 percent of dairy sales and high percentages of most other agricultural commodities.
For farms raising cattle or calves, the report lists a total of 740,978 operations. Of those, 202,047 are listed as retirement farms, where the operators report they are retired, although they continue to farm on a small scale. On 266,250 cattle operations, NASS reports the operator has an off-farm occupation. Of the cattle farms where the operator's primary occupation is farming, 130,774 are listed as having annual sales less than $150,000, 47,648 have sales of $150,000 to $349,999, 51,301 have sales from $350,000 to $999,999, 20,142 have sales from $1 million to $4,999,999 and 2,609 have sales of more than $5 million. Non-family farms account for the remaining 20,207 cattle operations.
The full report and additional materials are available online from the USDA.