Forty Percent Fewer Wheat Farms in the U.S.

The USDA’s Economic Research Service reported that the number of U.S. wheat farms has dropped substantially over time. Ryan Hanrahan, Farmdoc social media manager and farm policy news editor at the University of Illinois took a look at the numbers in the March Wheat Outlook Report.

Hanrahan says, “They put together a feature article as they do in these outlooks every once in a while, and this month was covering a 40 percent decline in the number of wheat farms in the United States since 2002. This data comes from the Census of Agriculture that came out recently and shows that decline over the last 20 years. The larger wheat farms, specifically 3,000 to 5,000 acre and larger category, saw some increases over those 20 years, while a lot of those smaller, maybe more family-type farms, those 100-to-500-acre farms are where those decreases were concentrated.”

Losing that many wheat farms over time put a dent in U.S. wheat production. He says, “The declines that they point back to about 2008-2009 when there was a 2.5-billion-bushel production in those years, and since the 2017 census, our production hasn’t topped two billion bushels. They point to the decline in planted acreage there and harvested acreage, particularly that 2008-2009 year again had 56 million acres, they say, and down to a low of 35.5 million acres harvested here in 2022-23.”

Wheat has become more of a rotational crop that gets mixed in with corn and soybeans according to the report. Hanrahan says, “It’s about how it’s a crop that’s become mixed more in with both corn and soybeans, and that’s kind of led to a decline in wheat production given that corn and soybeans typically find themselves to be a bit more profitable. They list some data here that all three of the crops, wheat, corn, and soybeans, have increased in their value of production from 2017 to the 2022 Census of Ag. The increases for corn and soybeans are much more significant than what farmers have seen for wheat.”

The drop in production came in many of the different classes of wheat as well. Hanrahan says, “There’s certainly some different percentages in there. Durum wheat saw the largest wheat production, they say, with about a 60 percent decline from the 2002 data that they talk about to the 2022 data. But the others certainly have declined as well. Spring wheat, it says, has about a 43 percent reduction from the 2002 census there as well.”

Story courtesy of the NAFB News Service

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