Study Shows Fewer, but Larger Produce Farming Operations

Study Shows Fewer, but Larger Produce Farming Operations

applepixA new study shows the size of fruit and vegetable farming operations is steadily increasing.

While the report does not address it, does this mean more loading opportunities for produce haulers at fewer locations?

“Three decades of consolidation in U.S. agriculture,” a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service report said that the midpoint acreage (half of farms are below the midpoint acreage and half the farms are above it) for fruit, nut and berry operations increased in 19 of 20 crops between 1987 and 2012, with the average increase pegged at 110 percent. Except for lemon farms, which declined in size 16 percent from 1987 to 2012, all other fruit operations grew in size, the report reads.

The report was written by James MacDonald, Robert Hoppe and Doris Newton.

There has been evidence that average farm size has been slowing in the last decade, MacDonald said, but he added the long-term trend has been large and persistent across all crops.

For vegetable and melon crops, there has been a “clear slowing” of consolidation from 2007 to 2012 for vegetable and melon crops.  Midpoint acreage declined in six of 20 crops, and the average increase was 10 percent over that five-year period, compared with previous five-year gains averaging 20 percent.

Technology has been a driver in larger farm sizes, MacDonald said.

For fruit and vegetable crops, Florida has faced urbanization pressures that have held down average farm sizes. Over the past 30 years, California has seen growers move out of field crops such as grains and into almonds, fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.

Across all crops, the USDA reported 51 percent of the value of U.S. farm production came from farms with at least $1 million in sales, up from 31 percent in 1991.

Land consolidation in fruits and vegetables and nuts, 1987-2012

Midpoint for harvested acreage (half of operations larger, half of operations smaller)

1987             2012         Change

Almonds       203                547           169 percent

Apples            83                179           116 percent

Asparagus    160                200            44 percent

Avocados        40                  50            25 percent

Blueberries      50                100           100 percent

Cantaloupe    400                350            -12 percent

Grapes           205                420            105 percent

Grapefruit       320                573               79 percent

Lettuce           949              1,275              34 percent

Pistachios      465                  926              99 percent

Potatoes        350                1,054             21 percent

Strawberries    24                   180             650 percent

Tangerines       55                    336           511 percent

Tomatoes        400                   930           133 percent