Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 6:00 pm
According to newly-released data from the USDA's agricultural census, the number of farms in the Northwest is dropping.
But there's more to the story: the average size and value of Northwest farms are going up.
The survey, conducted every five years on everything from total bushels of wheat produced to how much gasoline farms purchased, shows Washington, Oregon and Idaho all lost farms between 2007 and 2012. But the average farm size and market value went up in all three states.
And there's another notable change: the number of farms making $500,000 or more is growing.
“It goes to the fact that what we see in agriculture is 'get specialized, get big, or get out,'” says Garth Taylor, an agriculture economist at the University of Idaho.
Taylor says many of Idaho's small dairy farms have stopped operating or have been bought up. Yet while the number of individual dairy farms has dropped, Idaho now has more than 500,000 milk cows -- a doubling of the cow population since 1997.
Still, when you count farm-by-farm, the vast majority in the Northwest are small, family-owned operations. In Washington, 74 percent of farms make less than $25,000 a year.