Soybeans harvested near Worthington, Minnesota. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The gap between how many U.S. farms were profitable and those that weren't widened in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's first census since 2012, released Thursday.

Why it matters: The most in-depth government survey of the agricultural economy shows a downturn in conditions for farmers even before the start of President Trump's tit-for-tat trade war began, which has resulted in lower Chinese demand for U.S. commodities.


  • Just over 891,000 farms ended 2017 with positive net cash farm income — a measure of profitability — down from 972,445 in 2012. Meanwhile, the number of unprofitable farms jumped to 1.15 million, after falling between 2007 and 2012.
  • There are 2.04 million farms and ranches in the U.S., a decline of of 3.2% from 2012.
  • There are more small and large farms, while the number of mid-sized farms are getting squeezed. That reflects farms scaling up or scaling down to survive. "Farmers have sought to increase scale to better spread their fixed costs and increase their purchasing power with seed and fertilizer companies," Bloomberg notes.
  • Farmers are continuing to get older. The average age of all producers is 57.5, an increase of 1.2 years from 2012.

Go deeper: America's farmers are falling on tough times

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Parties trade election influence accusations at Big Tech hearing

Photo: Michael Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

A Senate hearing Wednesday with Big Tech CEOs became the backdrop for Democrats and Republicans to swap accusations of inappropriate electioneering.

Why it matters: Once staid tech policy debates are quickly becoming a major focal point of American culture and political wars, as both parties fret about the impact of massive social networks being the new public square.

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Germany goes back into lockdown

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel will enact one of Europe's strictest coronavirus lockdowns since spring, closing bars and restaurants nationwide for most of November, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Germany is the latest European country to reimpose some form of lockdown measures amid a surge in cases across the continent.

How overhyping became an election meddling tool

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

As online platforms and intelligence officials get more sophisticated about detecting and stamping out election meddling campaigns, bad actors are increasingly seeing the appeal of instead exaggerating their own interference capabilities to shake Americans' confidence in democracy.

Why it matters: It doesn't take a sophisticated operation to sow seeds of doubt in an already fractious and factionalized U.S. Russia proved that in 2016, and fresh schemes aimed at the 2020 election may already be proving it anew.