GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — After a year of massive flooding throughout Nebraska and continued low commodity prices, the USDA reported Thursday that the number of farms in Nebraska declined in 2019 from 2018.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said the number of farms and ranches in the state, at 45,700, decreased by 200 farms from 2018. In a previous report from February 2000, in 1999 there were 55,000 farms and ranches in Nebraska. The total was 66,000 in 1978.
According to the report, the number of farms and ranches in Nebraska with less than $100,000 in agricultural sales decreased by 400 farms from a year earlier, while operations with more than $100,000 in agricultural sales increased by 200 farms.
Other statistics included:
— Nebraska farms and ranches with annual sales between $1,000 to $9,999 last year totaled 11,300 farms and ranches on 800,000 acres, with the average size farm at 71 acres.
— Farms and ranches with annual sales of $10,000 to $99,999 last year totaled 14,300 on 4.9 million acres, with the average size of 343 acres.
— Of the 45,700 farms and ranches in Nebraska, 25,600 were operations with annual sales between $1,000 to $99,000.
— Farms and ranches with annual sales of $100,000 to $249,000 totaled 6,500 and covered 5.9 million acres, with the average size farm and ranch at 908 acres.
— Farms and ranches with annual sales of $250,000 to $499,000 totaled 5,100 and covered 7.9 million acres, with the average size farm and ranch at 1,549 acres.
— Farms and ranches with annual sales of $500,000 to $999,999 totaled 4,300 covering 9.2 million acres, with the average size farm and ranch at 2,140 acres.
— Farms and ranches with annual sales of more than $1 million totaled 4,200 covering 16.2 million acres, with the average size farm and ranch at 3,857 acres.
— Farms and ranches with sales between $500,000 to $999,999 saw a decrease of 100, while farms and ranches with sales of more than $1 million annually increased by 100.
Cash receipts from farm marketings contributed more than $21 billion to Nebraska’s economy in 2018 and 5.7% of the U.S. total.
Land in farms and ranches in Nebraska totaled 44.9 million acres, down 100,000 acres from 2018. There are 22 million acres of rangeland and pasture land in Nebraska, half of which are in the Sandhills. The average size of farm and ranch operations in Nebraska last year was 982 acres, up 2 acres from a year earlier.
Last year, there was 13.65 million acres of corn and soybeans harvested. Nebraska’s 11 other principle crops, sorghum, alfalfa, hay, millet, sunflowers, sugarbeets, potatoes, dry edible beans and peas, totaled 2.9 million acres.
Corn production was at 1.79 billion bushels, down slightly from 2018’s record harvest. Soybean production was at 283 million bushels, down from 2018’s record production of 333 million bushels, as more than 800,000 fewer acres were harvested last year from the previous record year.
According to the USDA, over the last three decades, cropland has shifted from midsize (between 100 and 999 acres) to large operations with 2,000 or more acres in crops. In 1987, 57% of cropland acres were operated by midsize farms, while large farms operated 15% of all cropland. By 2017, the share of cropland operated by midsize farms had fallen to 33%, while the share operated by large farms had grown to 41% of all cropland. That shift occurred steadily over time, with the share of acreage operated by large farms increasing in every census from 1987 to 2017, including an increase from 36% of acres in 2012 to 41% of acres in 2017.
In the latest USDA research, cropland accounted for 44% of all U.S. farmland in 2017, while permanent pasture and rangeland accounted for 45%. As cropland shifted to larger operations from 1987 and 2017, pasture and rangeland moved the other way, shifting away from the largest farms and ranches toward smaller operations. Farms and ranches with 10,000 acres or more of pasture and rangeland held 43% of all such acreage in 2017, down from 51% in 1987, with most of the land moving to farms and ranches with less than 500 acres.
While cropland consolidation has been widespread and persistent, the USDA said that livestock consolidation has followed a different pattern. It is not as persistent over time as cropland consolidation, instead showing very large increases in some periods and little change in others. With beef cow-calf operations, the USDA said there was very little consolidation.