A 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