Today’s mantra in agriculture: get big, get a second income, or get hemp?
The USDA reports that the number of farms and ranches in South Dakota declined by 300 last year, to 31,000 operations. The decline came from the lower income range of farms trying to live entirely off their land:
All 300 lost farms and ranches were making $100,000 or more in agricultural sales, according to NASS. That leads [MTI farm/ranch management specialist Will] Walter to believe producers relying solely on the land for income are the most affected.
“More than likely, if their sales are under $100,000, they are providing their living from off-farm income as well,” Walter said.
Those under the $100,000 benchmark remained unchanged, but there was some mobility between more specific sales classes, like a 100-operations increase in the $1,000 to $9,999 sales class and a 100-operations decrease in the $10,000 to $99,999 class.
The largest producers remained the same. South Dakota still has 3,500 operations making $500,000 to $999,999 in sales and 2,400 selling $1 million or more [Jake Shama, “New Report Shows S.D. Lost 300 Farmers Last Year,” AgWeek, 2017.02.21].
The U.S. lost 8,000 farms last year. Nationwide, the average farm size grew by an acre to 442 acres. In South Dakota, average farm size grew 14 acres to 1,397.
According to the AgWeek article, one key to keeping farms alive is being open to new products. House Bill 1204 would allow South Dakota farmers to raise one such product, industrial hemp. The environmental and economic data on hemp are mixed, but House Agriculture and Natural Resources passed HB 1204 9–2, over the objection of our state Department of Agriculture, which is supposed to be working to expand production opportunities for South Dakota farmers.