Fewer farms and ranches dotted the nation last year, a decline spurred by bad weather, competition for land and lower commodity prices.

USDA estimates there were 2.16 million farms and ranches in 2001, down 0.7 percent from the previous year and the second consecutive annual decline.

Kansas joined 23 other states that reported lower farm numbers in the report. The number of farms and ranches in 22 states remained unchanged, and increased in five states.

USDA defines a farm for the purposes of its report as any establishment from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products are sold during the year.

Despite the overall drop in Kansas farm numbers by about 1,000 to 63,000, an analysis of the USDA figures broken down by annual sales showed an increase in the number of mid-sized farms. The drop came in the number of the largest and smallest farms in the state.

Eddie Wells, statistician for Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service, says the number of mid-sized farms in Kansas increased because of larger-size farms that fell into the middle category due to lower commodity prices.

Kansas had 100,000 fewer acres in agricultural production. Farming acreage dropped to 47.4 million acres in the state, compared with 47.5 million a year earlier.

``I see the attitude of grain farmers declining,' says Richard Wahl, associate economist with the Kansas Farm Management Association. ``I think it is a function that we haven't had anything very exciting for a while now in terms of prices.'

In Montana, which also lost 1,000 farms and ranches in 2001, farmers have suffered through several years of drought and watched profits wither in the sun.

``Because of economics, they had to make changes,' Curt Lund, the deputy state statistician, said Monday. ``They had to take another look at their situations, maybe acquire more land. Others chose to get out altogether.'

You can review the USDA report at: http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/reports/nassr/other/zfl-bb

Associated Press