The trend toward consolidation of agriculture continued apace in 2008, particularly in livestock operations. The latest annual Farms, Land in Farms and Livestock report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed a 4 percent drop in the number of dairy farms from 2007, to 67,000.
Higher feed prices in 2007 and 2008 had a negative impact on dairy farmers, causing a steeper decline in the number of farms, according to the Economic Research Service.
The ERS projected that over the next 10 years the number of milk cows will resume a more moderate annual decline. However, annual reductions are less drastic when compared with previous decades due to increasing specialization of dairy farms.
There had been a steep decline in the number of dairy operations over the past 20 years, from nearly 220,000 farms in 1988 to under 70,000 today.
The USDA annual report shows a similar decline in the number of hog farms and a related, but less steep, decline in the number of beef cow farms. Meanwhile, the number of goat farms grew by 4 percent from 2007 to 2008.
USDA estimated the number of farms in 2008 at 2.2 million, 0.2 percent fewer than in 2007. Total land in farms, at 919.9 million acres, decreased 1.56 million acres, or 0.2 percent, from 2007.