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

Crop InputsWeed Expert: Adding A Second Herbicide Not Always Easy
February 9, 2016
In my last post, I reviewed some recent research that suggests one of the best ways to delay the evolution Read More
HerbicidesWSSA Announces New, Updated Free Web Resources
February 9, 2016
Today the Weed Science Society of American (WSSA) announced that new and updated educational materials for both weed scientists and Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More
Chesapeake Bay
StewardshipKeeping A Watch On Water Issues
February 2, 2016
During a down cycle in the market, it’s difficult to think about investing for the long term. For retail businesses, Read More
Top 100 Articles
Elburn Cooperative
CropLife 100Elburn Cooperative Members Vote To Join CHS
December 28, 2015
With 81% of eligible producers voting, 94% cast an affirmative ballot for Elburn Cooperative, a diversified agricultural retailer based out Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Farmers Cooperative-West Central Merger Approved
December 21, 2015
The members of Farmers Cooperative Co. (FC), Ames, IA, and West Central Cooperative, Ralston, IA, have both approved the merger Read More
Wheat Growers Innovation Center, Bath, SD
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Opens Innovation Center
December 21, 2015
Wheat Growers’ commitment in providing its farmer-owners with the latest in technological advancements now has a one-of-a-kind focal point, as Read More
CropLife 100ARA Selects The Andersons As 2015 Retailer Of The Year
December 9, 2015
The Agricultural Retailers Association today named Maumee, OH-based The Andersons as its Retailer of the Year for 2015. The award Read More
CPS Washington Court House John Deere Sprayer
CropLife 100Application Equipment Report: It Is Easy Being Green For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 5, 2015
On The Muppets television show, Kermit the Frog is famous for singing a song about the troubles he encounters in Read More
Fertilizer Bin
CropLife 100Fertilizer Sales: Another Down Year For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 4, 2015
In pure number terms, the fertilizer category still dominates all crop inputs/services among CropLife 100 ag retailers. In 2015, for Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Submits New Bio-Fungicide For E…
February 9, 2016
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI) today announced that it has submitted a new biological fungicide (MBI-110) to EPA. The broad spectrum Read More
Crop InputsWeed Expert: Adding A Second Herbicide Not Always Easy
February 9, 2016
In my last post, I reviewed some recent research that suggests one of the best ways to delay the evolution Read More
Crop InputsGenetic Literacy Project: Farmers Need More Herbicide C…
February 9, 2016
There are two things that I think just about every weed scientist can agree on, writes Andrew Kniss for The Read More
HerbicidesWeed Expert Warns North Dakota Growers Of Coming Herbic…
February 9, 2016
Ford Baldwin painted a bleak picture of weed control at a recent workshop here exploring the future of ag production, Read More
HerbicidesWSSA Announces New, Updated Free Web Resources
February 9, 2016
Today the Weed Science Society of American (WSSA) announced that new and updated educational materials for both weed scientists and Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesFour Arysta Fungicide Formulations Given FIFRA Approval…
February 8, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the issuance of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(ee) Recommendations for Read More
FungicidesAgri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus Receives EPA Registrat…
February 8, 2016
Vivid Life Sciences has announced the EPA registration of Agri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus, a highly concentrated active ingredient phosphite fungicide, Read More
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More
Crop InputsBayer To Contest EPA Flubendiamide Decision
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, announced today it has refused a request by EPA to voluntarily cancel the uses Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechNot So Fast: ChemChina Syngenta Takeover Could Draw Nat…
February 5, 2016
State-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina), which plans to buy Swiss seeds and pesticide maker Syngenta, will promptly start preparations Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechExpansion Of Syngenta’s North America Seedcare In…
February 4, 2016
As demand for seed treatment knowledge and products grows among farmers, retailers and others in the seed industry, Syngenta is Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Strengthens Sales Team
February 4, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced three new personnel additions: Jake Cook and Peter White are Territory Sales Managers for Read More
Davor Pisk Syngenta COO
Crop InputsSyngenta COO: Why ChemChina Offer Beat Monsanto’s
February 4, 2016
Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk says he is confident the proposed acquisition by ChemChina will ultimately help preserve choice Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsKoch Biological Solutions Invests In Pathway Biologic
February 4, 2016
An affiliate of Koch Biological Solutions, LLC has acquired a minority equity position in, and entered into collaboration with, Pathway Read More
Crop InputsABG: China Signs Off On Monsanto’s Roundup Ready …
February 3, 2016
Monsanto Co. on Wednesday announced it plans to launch its Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans in time for the 2016 Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop Inputs6 Things To Know About The ChemChina-Syngenta Deal
February 3, 2016
After months of rumors and speculation, Syngenta has announced that ChemChina has offered to acquire the Swiss-based company. “In making Read More