The Search For Large Growers

If you talk to someone in agriculture long enough, the size of a nearby farm is bound to come up. Whether it’s the neighbor renting up all the land, the most desired seed customer or their most loyal tractor buyer, large farms are always fun to talk about. Ag folks talk about the biggest grower they know as if the operation is surrounded by some kind of mystique.

The Center for Food and Agricul­tural Business at Purdue University focuses on understanding the relationship between agricultural retailers and producers. One of the first topics that ag retailers talk about is the importance of the large producer. Large clients pull a lot of weight when they go into the market to purchase inputs: Any level of margin multiplied over the number of units these operations work with is a significant impact to the bottom line. In some cases, there could be motivation to sell to these producers at nearly zero margin, just to qualify for volume discounts from the retailer’s manufacturers.

Talking to ag retailers about large growers often yields two polar-opposite responses. Some retailers talk about how many large growers they serve while others talk about how few and far between these producers are — if they can be found at all. In some cases, large growers are as plentiful as fish in a barrel. In other cases, it’s like a search for unicorns. Do these seemingly ideal customers even exist?

To help answer that question, the center’s researchers decided to figure out where large growers are located. In 2007, the USDA found that 347,760 farms in the U.S. reported planting corn, utilizing only 248 acres on average. The USDA data breaks the farms into groups by number of acres. At the top end of the USDA reporting scale are farms with more than 5,000 acres of corn.

How many of these 347,760 farms do you think reported having more than 5,000 acres? The answer is 0.067%. Not 6%, but 0.067%. In 2007, the USDA reported that 233 farms planted more than 5,000 acres of corn. While this number seems small, it was a substantial increase from the 2002 survey, when only 67 farms reported planting more than 5,000 acres.

When it comes to soybeans, only 74 farms planted more than 5,000 acres, compared to 85 farms in 2002.

For wheat, a total of 300 farms reported planting more than 5,000 acres. Large wheat farms are the most plentiful in total numbers (300) and in relative terms (0.22% of the 136,103 total farms planting wheat). Large soybean farms are the rarest, with only 74 farms and 0.02% of all soybean farms planting more than 5,000 acres.

A close look at these large corn farms reveals that 116 of the 233 large corn farms are in Illinois (44), Nebraska (28), Iowa (23) and Indiana (23).

A Closer Look At Indiana

The center researchers used the Indiana data for a deeper, more targeted look at farm sizes. Using the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture, they evaluated farm size across the board for all crops. The highest-acre group reported by the USDA is “more than 2,000 acres,” so for this evaluation, that is how the largest farm category is classified.

In all, 1,286 Indiana farms fell into this group, or 2.12% of all Indiana farms. This number was up from 990 in 2002 and 713 in 1997. Knox County, located along the Illinois border in Southern Indiana, is home to 45 farms with more than 2,000 acres, boasting the largest collection of these farms. Knox County and 11 other counties are home to a total of 376 large farms, which means that you’d have to actively search for an area not used by large farms in these counties.

On the other hand, in Eastern Indiana, very few of these large farms exist. In some counties, such as Brown and Ohio, there is only one grower with more than 2,000 acres.

In conclusion, the number of “large farms” is quite small, no matter which metric you use to measure it. While the overall trend toward larger farms, briefly pointed out in this report, is likely to continue, the fact will probably remain that less than 1% of corn growers plant more than 5,000 acres and less than 5% (2.12% in 2007) of Indiana growers harvest more than 2,000 acres. Overall, these farms just aren’t as common as one might think.

In addition, the search for large grower-customers is a feast or famine situation. In some areas, large farms tend to dominate, but in others, they’re few and far between. In the U.S., nearly 48% of the large corn growers are in four states.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “The Search For Large Growers

  1. When reading this, one should bear in mind that farm program caps have promoted maintaining small farm size on paper, therefore distorting considerably what is really going on. For example I work with one farm which is well over 6000 acres of row crop now. The operation on paper for the government is not a single entity, but it operates as a single entity – more like a cooperative. Dad has a piece, son one has a piece, son two has a piece, mom has a piece, there is likely a corporation with a piece, a brother and his son and maybe more I don’t know about. Here in Nebraska we have very many similar operations, Way more than the 28 referenced in the article, probably upwards of 200.

Management Stories

LegislationUSDA: Quick Implementation Of Disaster Assistance Programs A ‘Top Priority’
July 9, 2014
USDA has processed 106,000 payments to farmers in 40 states across the country who suffered livestock and grazing losses between Oct. 2011 and passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Read More
LegislationTFI Praises White House For Signing WRRDA Into Law
June 11, 2014
The bill streamlines U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, prioritizes authorized waterway improvements and provides needed adjustments to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementAllied Cooperative, Arcadia Co-op Plan Merger
June 10, 2014
The Board of Directors of Allied Cooperative and Arcadia Co-op recently signed a letter of intent for a merger between the two cooperatives. Read More
EmployeesSyngenta: ‘Take Charge’ Of Farm Safety
June 4, 2014
Syngenta and health officials warn of four health-related challenges in agriculture and how they can be managed. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More
EquipmentKinze, Raven Team Up On 4900 Planter Monitor
July 23, 2014
Kinze Manufacturing announces a partnership with Raven Industries to develop a standalone monitor solution for the Kinze 4900 series planter. With this new Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Continues To Confuse As Growers Await USD…
July 23, 2014
The new five-year Farm Bill eliminates many of the direct payments previously payed to growers and could benefit from USDA clarification, reports a Toledo Blade columnist. Read More
EquipmentPrecisionAg.com Relaunches With Responsive Design For M…
July 22, 2014
PrecisionAg, the worldwide leader in precision agriculture information and analysis, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, PrecisionAg.com. Read More
FungicidesEPA OKs Two Willowood Fungicides
July 21, 2014
The EPA has approved Willowood Azoxy 2SC and Willowood AzoxyProp Xtra. two widely used broad spectrum, preventative fungicides with systemic and curative properties. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learning Fast As UAVs Take Off
July 17, 2014
Farmers and others interested in how UAVs can be used in agricultural applications were able to learn more about the technology during the recent Precision Aerial Ag Show. Read More
CropLife 100Bobby Knight, Richard Petty To Highlight Ag PhD Field D…
July 17, 2014
Attendees at the July 24 Ag PhD Field Day at Hefty Farms will learn about the latest agricultural technologies, and get a chance to meet legendary sports figures Bobby Knight and Richard Petty. Read More