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March 21, 2002

Indiana loses farms in 2001, but crop output climbs

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Fewer farms dotted Indiana's landscape in 2001, but agricultural output of the state's principal crops, on the other hand, was never better.

Indiana lost 1,000 farms with agricultural sales of $1,000 or more this past year, leaving the state with 63,000 farms – the lowest mark in recorded history, according to the Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service (IASS). The IASS is based at Purdue University.

Conversely, Hoosier farms produced record corn and soybean crops. The total value of Indiana crops rose 6 percent, to $3.31 billion.

Most farm losses occurred among mid-size operations, with annual agricultural sales of between $10,000 and $100,000, said Chris Hurt, Purdue agricultural economist. Farms at the large and small ends of the spectrum either grew or were profitable enough to continue.

"Commercial farms are large enough to generate a family living return," Hurt said. "For very small farms with less than $10,000 in sales, the primary source of income is something off the farm. For those operations, farm income does not determine whether they stay in farming or not.

"That leaves our group in the center. That group is probably where we tend to lose most of our farms. They're trying to hold the farm together and generate enough income, but it's getting harder and harder to do."

Indiana has been losing farms for years, but not at the rate it did a few decades ago, Hurt said.

"We can contrast the 63,000 farms we have today to 100 years ago, when there were about 216,000 farms in Indiana," he said. "The big reduction in farm numbers came in the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s. In each of those decades, we lost around 20 percent of the farms during the decade. The loss of farms since 1990 has been only 7 percent."

Improved technology, production practices, planting decisions and a little luck made it possible for fewer farms to produce more last year, Hurt said.

"In 2001 we had cooperative weather, record yields on our two primary crops of corn and soybeans, and those record high yields related to record total production in the state," he said. "Even with the modest prices that we have, we saw revenues from those crops increase substantially. I think that's going to be a continuing trend."

The IASS also reported:

• Indiana farm acres dipped from 15.5 million in 2000 to 15.4 million in 2001.

• The average size of Indiana farms grew two acres in 2001, to 244 acres.

• Production values of seven of Indiana's 13 leading crops increased in 2001: Corn for grain, $1.72 billion, up 12 percent; soybeans for beans, $1.2 billion, up 4 percent; popcorn, $24.25 million, up 37 percent; tobacco, $18.4 million, up 19 percent; potatoes, $5 million, up 14 percent; peaches, $1.69 million, up 63 percent; and spearmint, $970,000, up 1 percent. The crops with the largest production value losses – down 34 percent each – were oats, $1.92 million; and blueberries, $1.62 million.

U.S. farm trends mirrored Indiana's in 2001. The nation lost farms and farm acreage, but the average farm size increased. Farm numbers dropped 14,000, to 2.158 million, while total acreage slipped from 943.1 million acres to 941.2 million acres.

The average U.S. farm grew two acres, to 436 acres.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, sleer@aes.purdue.edu

Source: Chris Hurt, (765) 494-4273; hurtc@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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