The 2022 Census of Agriculture shows the United States has fewer farms and fewer acres in production compared to five years ago, continuing a persistent trend found in previous surveys. 

The ag census reports the U.S. lost more than 141,000 farms since 2017, a 7% decline. The number of farm acres fell to 880 million acres, a loss of more than 20 million acres from five years earlier. 

“The latest census numbers put in black and white the warnings our members have been expressing for years,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “Increased regulations, rising supply costs, lack of available labor and weather disasters have all squeezed farmers to the point that many of them find it impossible to remain economically sustainable.”

Iowa bucks the trend

The number of farms in Iowa countered the national trend by rising for the first time in 15 years, increasing 1% since the previous census to a total of 86,911 farms. All other states in the top 10 saw their farm counts decline.   

The number of producers in Iowa also continued to grow, climbing to 157,531 in 2022 — an increase of more than 12,000 producers compared to five years earlier and 30,000 more than 20 years ago. The census collects data for a maximum of four producers per farm.

The state level trends reflect a period of very strong income for Iowa farmers, said Christopher Pudenz, Iowa Farm Bureau economics and research manager.

“In a couple of key ways, the results for Iowa bucked the headline national trends. It’s hard to know for sure why, but a potential explanation is that 2021 and 2022 were especially strong years for the state’s row crop farmers and swine producers. Further analysis over the coming weeks and months will tell us more,” he said. “It’s also worth noting that, compared to 2017, there were more than 1,000 more farms with egg layer inventory in 2022, with more than 90% of that increase coming from farms with fewer than 50 layers.”

Behind the numbers

The ag census, conducted every five years, provides insights into demographics, economics, land use and activities on Iowa and U.S. farms and ranches. The definition of a farm for census purposes is any operation that produces at least $1,000 of ag products.

The census reflected a period of sharply rising incomes and expenses for farmers. The value of U.S. farm production rose 40% to $543 billion from 2017 to 2022, while expenses shot up 30% to $424.1 billion. 

The productivity of Iowa farms and ranches also soared, climbing to $43.9 billion in value, up from $29 billion in 2017. Iowa ranked second nationally in total value of agricultural products sold, trailing only California. Iowa was also second in total value of crop sales and total value of livestock sales in 2022.

“From 2017 to 2022, total market value of agricultural products sold by Iowa farms increased nearly 52%. But costs rose during that time period, too, increasing by more than a third,” Pudenz said. “There’s a lot of concern presently that output prices for key commodities, namely corn and soybeans, have fallen faster and farther than overall input prices for those commodities.”

The census showed an increase in the largest farms and smallest farms in Iowa, while the number of those in the middle decreased. The state had 14,702 farms between 500-1,999 acres, 13% fewer than five years earlier. There were 2,339 farms with 2,000 acres or more (up 23%), and 69,870 with 499 acres or fewer (up 3.8%). 

Eleven percent of Iowa farms had sales of $1 million or more, accounting for 73% of the value of ag products sold in Iowa. Meanwhile, 48% of Iowa’s farms had sales of less than $50,000, accounting for 0.8% of sales.

Family-owned and operated farms ac­­counted for 93% of all Iowa farms.

The average age of an Iowa farmer increased slightly to 57.6 years, still somewhat younger than the national average farmer age of 58.1 years old. 

Nationwide, the number of producers held steady at 3.4 million. Of those, 1.29 million are age 65 or older, up 12.1% from 2017. 

Other notable statistics from Iowa include:

• Iowa had a total of 29.98 million acres of land in farms in 2022, a decrease of about 600,000 acres. The average size of an Iowa farm is now 345 acres, compared to 355 acres in 2017. 

• No-till and reduced tillage practices were used on 78% of cropland acres.

• Farmers in Sioux, Lyon, Plymouth, Washington and Kossuth counties had the largest value of sales in Iowa for 2022.

• Iowa farms that sold agricultural products directly to consumers had sales of $30.1 million in 2022, up 51% from 2017.

• Iowa farms with internet access continued to rise from 80% in 2017 to 82% in 2022.

• There were 50,263 female producers in Iowa in 2022, accounting for 33% of the state’s producers. Some 53% of Iowa farms had at least one female decision maker.

• The number of Iowa producers under age 35 was 15,835, comprising 10% of all Iowa producers.