Economist: Age of U.S. Farmers is Not a Problem

USAgNet - 05/10/2024

The older age of US farmers remains a topic of concern (see, for example, US Senate Committee on Aging). The 2022 Census of Agriculture confirms that US farmers continue to age (farmdoc daily. October 23, 2013 and February 26, 2020, and Zulauf, 2021). However, US farmers are also becoming younger relative to the US population, and the age distribution of US farmers is consistent with more farmers entering the profession when economic returns are good. In total, this evidence is not consistent with the US having either a farmer aging or a farmer replacement problem.

According to the 2022 Census of Agriculture, the average age of US farmer is 58.1, 0.6 years older than in the 2017 Census and 9.4 years older than in the 1945 Census, the first to report an average age (see Figure 1). Only in the 1978 and 2012 Census was average age more than 0.1 years younger than in the prior Census (50.3 vs. 51.7, 1978 vs. 1974; and 56.3 vs. 57.1, 2012 vs. 2007).

Age is both a level and relative concept. Relative to the US population, US farmers have become slightly younger over the last 60 years. Since 1960, the average age of US farmers has increased 7.6 years while the median age of the US population has increased 8.8 years (see Figure 2). US median age is from Korhonen and US Census Bureau. (Note, the Agricultural Census does not report a median age.)

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