Too often lost in the debate over the on-going shift to larger farms in the United States is the economic push behind that trend. It is a choice or a necessity for a farmer to produce more hogs, cattle, milk or grow more acres of corn, soybeans, wheat? The public tends to equate increased production with greed, when in reality, narrower profit margins require larger systems simply to have a chance a turning a profit. 

 The 80 to 160 acres that your grandparents lived on isn’t enough to make it today, says the South Central Minnesota West Adult Farm Business Management Program.

In 2007, a total of 850 farm families from South Central Minnesota kept household and personal expense records. The average household and personal expense for the year was $74,804, with an average family size of 3.4 persons.

To earn this income a family needs approximately 928 acres of corn and soybeans, 127 dairy cows, 10,717 head of hogs from weaning to finish or 948 head of beef cows in a beef cow-calf operation.

Family living expenses in the tally included: food, medical care, charitable donations, supplies, furnishings, clothing, educational costs, recreation expenses, gifts, utilities, child care, house rent and home maintenance. Also included were expenses for the purchase of non-farm vehicles, investments, savings, life-insurance premiums, income/social security taxes and non-farm capital purchases.

For more details, read an article titled "What does it take to earn a living on the farm?"

Of course, getting the rest of the U.S. public to understand that message is another challenge altogether.  

Source: South Central Minnesota West Adult Farm Business Management Program