Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association
Supply · Service · Stewardship

50 Years of Little Change: The Distribution of US Farming by State

Specialization is a defining attribute of US farming over the last 50 years.  For example, share of farms that had beef cows, grew corn, grew wheat, sold hogs, and sold milk declined from 72%, 44%, 23%, 25%, and 20% to 36%, 15%, 5%, 3%, and 2%, respectively, between the 1964 and 2017 Censuses of Agriculture.  Nevertheless, state shares of US farm, crop, and livestock cash receipts has changed little, implying a mostly stable geographical distribution of US farming by state.  Individual livestock types have experienced more change, but even then no more than 20% of states had a share change that exceeded 1.5 percentage points over 50 years.
Procedures:  The US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service’s farm income and wealth data set is the source for state cash receipts.  Average state shares are computed for the 5 year periods of 1965-1969 and 2014-2018.  A state’s share of farm, crop and livestock receipts represents that state’s share of cash receipts for the US.  For example, during 2014-2018 California accounted for 13.3% of total US farm cash receipts (see Figure 1).  Cash receipts for 2019 and 2020 are not used because of the potential for distortions from the COVID-19 pandemic and US tariff wars.
Top 7 Farm States, 2014-2018:  To put the 50-year change of state’s share in perspective, Figure 1 contains the 2014-2018 share of US farm cash receipts for the top 7 states along with their share of US crop and livestock cash receipts.  Kansas is the only state that is not a top 7 crop state.  Illinois is the only state that is not a top 7 livestock state.  Indiana replaces Kansas in the top 7 crop states.  Wisconsin replaces Illinois in the top 7 livestock states.  The top 7 farm, crop, and livestock states collectively account for 45%, 50%, and 44% of US farm, crop, and livestock cash receipts, respectively.
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