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July 3, 2024

Are American Family Farms Disappearing? 

The American family farm is the cornerstone of our nation—but is its existence in jeopardy?  

As the land of the free and home of the brave, the American family farm has been a foundational part of this nation and the meaning of independence. That’s why it concerns many that, over the years, we’ve witnessed a gradual decline in the percentage of family-owned farms. According to the 2022 ag census, family farms still dominate U.S. agriculture, capturing as much as 95 percent of the market. But a modest decline of nearly three percent decline since 2012 has many asking the question—why are family farms disappearing?  

And with nearly half of U.S. farmland expected to transfer ownership in the next two decades, it’s a discussion that needs to be had sooner rather than later.  

The Current State of American Family Farms 

According to the 2022 agricultural census, there are 1.9 million farms in the United States. For the first time since the ag census began, the number of U.S. farms has fallen below two million, with total farmland acres dropping to 880 million—the lowest since 1850.  

The slight but steady decline in family farms over the years is more than just numbers on a page—it represents a shift in the American agricultural landscape. One can take an alarmist view that points towards buzzwords like “industrial ag” and “corporate farming”, but as with many things, the real answer is less dramatic.  

Why Are Family Farms Disappearing? 

Part of the answer involves the general consolidation of the ag industry and the “get big or get out” mentality that was largely attributed to Earl Butz, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture who served under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in the early 1970s. 

But when it comes to family farms specifically, there are two key reasons why multigenerational family farms are no longer passing the torch.  

1. Economic Pressure 

Economic pressures, from fluctuating commodity prices to rising input costs, have made it increasingly difficult for family farms to stay afloat. Market volatility can turn a profitable year into a struggle for survival. These economic challenges force many farmers to take on additional debt or sell off parts of their land, creating a cycle of financial stress that is hard to break. 

2. A Lack of Succession 

Generational challenges also play a role. Many young people are reluctant to take on the financial burdens of farming or pursue careers outside agriculture. The aging farmer population means fewer young farmers are stepping in to continue the family legacy. Financial burdens, such as inheritance taxes and the costs of modernizing operations, further complicate the transfer of farms to the next generation. 

Empowering the Future of American Family Farms 

 The broader impact of disappearing family farms is profound. Rural communities lose not only their economic base but also a key part of their cultural identity. Family farms contribute to the social fabric of these communities, supporting local schools, businesses, and civic organizations. Their decline can lead to reduced economic activity and a sense of loss within these tight-knit communities. 

With so much at stake, what can be done to save the family farm?  

Succession Planning Support 

AgAmerica’s commitment extends beyond financial support. We offer succession planning resources to ensure that family farms are equipped to pass their legacy on to future generations. By providing strategic advice and financial tools, we help farmers navigate the complex process of succession planning, ensuring that the next generation is prepared to take over the family business. 

More Adaptable Financing Options  

At AgAmerica, we empower farmers with custom loan solutions that address short-term pain points while planning for long-term financial resilience. With a singular focus on ag, we take the time to understand each client’s unique challenges and strengths, creating adaptable loan structures that enable them to weather tough times and invest in their futures. These financing options combine the benefits of both conventional and alternative loans to help farmers effectively manage debt, purchase equipment when they need it, and expand their operations without compromising their financial stability. 

Don’t Let the Fed to Decide Your Financial Future

If a high interest rate environment is restricting your liquidity and delaying your operational goals, explore our long-term land loans with short-term variable rate options to secure the most competitive rate now.

Financing Designed to Help American Family Farms Thrive 

AgAmerica is dedicated to the preservation of the American family farm, with many of our team with personal ties to the community. We know finance and we know agriculture, ensuring we can create financial structures that allow farmers to thrive in good times and sleep well during tough times.  

Let’s keep the tradition of American family farms alive and thriving for generations to come. Learn more about how AgAmerica can help secure the future of your family farm today. By working together, we can ensure that family farms remain a vibrant part of our nation’s heritage and future.  

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