South Dakota Loses 300 Farms in 2016; HB 1204 Offers Crop Option?

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.

6 Responses to South Dakota Loses 300 Farms in 2016; HB 1204 Offers Crop Option?

  1. Porter Lansing

    Hey, back off South Dakota. Hemp is ours. You guy’s have got gambling in gas stations, we’ve got the billion dollar marijuana market. Stay off our turf or we’ll take Grudznick as hostage until you get your poop in a proper pile. ?

  2. mike from iowa

    I can just hear Drumpf claiming these farmers had to sell their farms to pay the “death” tax. And that is why there are no billionaires in America.

  3. Farmers will go along with what trump says even dollar corn.

  4. They are getting what they voted for. Soon there will be 30,000, then 25,000, then 15,000 – while the out-back counties and their towns return to frontier-era populations and services. That is their business model. That is their politics. Don’t deny them.

  5. So John , these farmers left in 2016. What has trump did in the last month that drove those farmers out last year under Presidents Obama’s administration. We have been losing farmers for the last 50 years due to consolidation. The big corporations own the seed, chemicals and fertilizer and own all the seed traits. Big AG has controlled farming for years. For the most part it is not a political issue as this has happened under both Democratic and Republican rule. If this trend continues food will get more expensive in the future. That will be bad for the consumer. But look on the bright side the higher food gets the more sales tax our state can collect from hard working people.

  6. Greg is right that farm consolidation is part of a longer process, back through Reagan, through Nixon’s Earl Butz, back to the Depression. Trump doesn’t own that problem.

    But what is Trump’s solution? Consider that since 2007, the U.S. has lost perhaps 100,000 farm jobs but less than 10,000 coal mining jobs. If Trump can make big promises about bringing coal jobs, shouldn’t he be speaking even more urgently about bringing back farm jobs?

    And isn’t it possible that, just like those lost coal jobs, those lost farm jobs are never coming back in the 21st-Century economy, that machines, competing products, and changing consumption have made jobs in both sectors irretrievably obsolete?