It’s not a dramatic revelation to say that farming no longer dominates the rural landscape, but it no longer dominates the rural economy either. That’s the word from a report from USDA's Economic Research Service.
Only one in five U.S. rural counties depend on farming today. Now, the report reflects information as of 2000, you have to admit, there’s not be a major boom in agriculture’s expansion since that time. The study is conducted at the beginning of each decade.
Of the more than 2,000 non-metropolitan counties evaluated in 2000, 420 were farming-dependent. That’s down from 618 in 1990.
ERS classified a county as farming-dependent if 15 percent or more of its earnings or employment originated from farming. So, to be fair, it does not take into account allied industries that support farming, which would shift the results only slightly further in farming’s favor.
According to the report, the economies of other non-metro counties depend more on industries such as machinery manufacturing, health services, telemarketing, prisons or recreation.
The report makes it clear that farming is not disappearing in the United States. Farm jobs declined by less than 2 percent in the 1990s, following a 15-percent decline in the 1980s. While most farm counties lost some farm jobs during the 1990s, one in five had at least 10 percent more farm jobs at the end of the decade than at the beginning.
What this does re-enforce is that farming issues will continue to face tough battles as the surrounding population doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the practices that you implement in order to do your job. It also tells you that it will be more complicated to evaluate and predict how rural communities today and in the future will respond to your business.
For more information about the report, go to www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/June04/Findings/OneInFiveCounties.htm