New USDA report says Missouri's small farms defy national trends
JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's smaller farms are bucking a national trend, according to a USDA census report released on Thursday.
There were 2,030 more small farms in 2017 than five years before, according to the Census of Agriculture.
Eric Bohl, director of public affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau, said the increase may be because younger farmers are starting to break into the profession.
"A lot of that is due to people really wanting to get involved at a young age and get into agriculture on a small level," he said.
Bohl said it takes certain types of farms to succeed with less acreage.
"Some of those are chicken operations, egg operations — those have been growing dramatically in Boone County and across Missouri," he said. "Also, the pork production in Missouri has been increasing dramatically as well in the past five years."
Bohl said that this increase could be due, in part, to an increase in the cost of land. Livestock farms require less land to operate in comparison to farms of soybeans and wheat.
"A lot of the smaller farms that are growing are in the animal agriculture area. A lot of people are getting some goats, some sheep, or vegetable farms. Some things that are a little atypical that don't require as much acreage just because the cost of land is so expensive these days," Bohl said.
Overall, however, farms are getting bigger, with average acreage growing from 269 to 291 over a ten year period.
In Missouri alone, the number of large farms is up more than 19%. That's considerably higher than the increase in small farms, at 4.5%.
Nationwide, the number of farms of all sizes dropped more than 3%, while small farms dropped just more than 1%.
The next Census of Agriculture is set to be released in 2024.