Apr 11, 2019

Less than 50% of U.S. farms were profitable in 2017, new census shows

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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Trump administration backs Oracle in Google fight

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo via The Washington Post.

The Trump administration is siding with Oracle in the database giant's dispute with Google before the Supreme Court — a move that comes as Oracle's founder hosts a high-dollar fundraiser for the president.

Why it matters: Billions of dollars — and, Google argues, the future of software innovation — are at stake as a long-running copyright dispute between the two giant companies heads to the Supreme Court next month.

Established VCs turn to "super angels" to grow their network

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Thanks to companies like AngelList and Carta that make it easier than ever to set up small VC funds, a new generation of so-called “super angels” is cropping up — and established venture funds are backing them.

Why it matters: Just like the boom in scout programs a number of years ago, it’s all about the deal flow.

Scoop: Top NSC official reassigned to Energy Department amid "Anonymous" fallout

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates will be reassigned as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, the National Security Council said Thursday — and a senior White House official said that the administration "rejects" the rumors that she is "Anonymous."

Why it matters: Coates has battled claims that she is the still-unknown Trump administration official that penned a New York Times op-ed and book critical of President Trump.