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Reuters, Published February 20 2014

Census shows more U.S. farms with annual income over $1 million

WASHINGTON - The proportion of U.S. farms with annual sales and government payments of $1 million or more doubled in the five years through 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Thursday.

The figures were part of the USDA's "Census of Agriculture," which surveys all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them every five years. Results of the Census form the backbone of U.S. agricultural policy.

The Census showed average farm size rose to 434 acres from 418 acres five years earlier. Most of the decline came in medium-sized farms, the USDA said. The number of large and very small farms did not change significantly.

Overall, the number of farms in the United States fell 4.3 percent, to about 2.1 million, continuing a long-term decline.

In 2012, some 4 percent of U.S. farms had sales and government payments of $1 million or more, versus 2 percent in the previous Census.

Most U.S. farms are considered small, though, with some 75 percent generating annual sales of less than $50,000.

Overall, agricultural sales per farm averaged $187,000 in 2012, up more than $52,000 or about 39 percent over 2007.

U.S. farms sold nearly $395 billion in agricultural products in 2012, up 33 percent from five years earlier. In that year, when many major producing areas experienced a severe drought, the market values of crops and livestock were at record highs.