Every five years, the U.S. De­­partment of Agriculture carries out an extensive survey of farmers all across the nation. The information that is collected and published serves a wide variety of purposes. One of the more important ones is to provide a snapshot of what farms and farmers at the national, state and county level look like, and how they are changing over time.

Farm consolidation

The long-term trend in Iowa as well as in most other states has been for the number of farms to decrease over time. The 2012 Census showed 88,637 farms in Iowa, a decrease of more than 4,000 compared to 2007.

However, these farms did not just disappear. Many mid-size farms were consolidated into larger units or subdivided into smaller units. In fact, the number of farms with fewer than 50 acres and more than 1,000 acres both increased. The area of land in farms dropped just 0.4...