Farmers’ shrinking numbers

Tractor - Texas Cotton Farm - West Texas

Photo by Flickr user David Ingram (dingatx), used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A recent story by Corrie MacLaggan and Neena Satija in the Texas Tribune considers the shrinking number of farms and farmers in the Lone Star State. As they write,

Small and midsize farms and ranches in Texas — those under 2,000 acres — have been declining at a rate of 250,000 acres a year, according to the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources. From 1997 to 2007, the institute estimates, Texas lost about 1.5 million acres of agricultural land and is expected to lose a million more by 2020.

And while Texas as a whole is growing rapidly, the 96 counties that lost population from 2010 to 2012 are mostly in heavily agricultural West Texas and the Panhandle, the Office of the State Demographer said….

Darren Hudson, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas Tech University, said a decline in population did not always mean less farming. Technological advances have allowed many farms and ranches in the Panhandle to expand, he said, while maintaining production levels with fewer workers….

But the risks of running an agricultural business have also increased. A tractor or combine can now cost $300,000, meaning an operation must be larger than in years past to justify such a cost, [DeDe] Jones, the A&M economist, said.

“The stakes are just a lot higher,” she said. “We’re going to see more corporate farms and larger farms than we have in the past.”

Head here for the full article.

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