The farmers of America are greying. Younger farmers are not stepping up at the rate needed to keep family farms alive and well. It is estimated that 70 percent of U.S. farmland will change ownership in the next 20 years due to farmers retiring or leaving the business, but many family operations do not have a succession plan. Without that, the farm is likely to go out of business, be absorbed by larger farming neighbors, or be converted to non-farm uses. Since the census of 1950, the average age of farm operators has consistently been over 50. In the last census (2010), there was a 30 percent increase in the number of farmers over the age of 75 and a 20 percent decrease in the number of farmers under the age of 25.
Food imports continue to trend upward. Imports of food by volume were 11% of total food consumed in the US in 1989 and had reached 16.8% in 2009. The import share of plant products went from 16.8 % in 1990 to 25.6 % of total consumption in 2009. The import share of unprocessed foods is growing faster than processed foods, with the highest import shares being for fresh fish and shellfish, fruits and nuts, sweeteners, and wine and beer. The import share for tropical products (coffee, cocoa, tea, and spices, bananas, tropical oils, olive oil and cashews) is nearly 100 percent because they are not produced in the US. The highest import shares for fruits and veggies are for apple juice, table grapes, and fresh tomatoes. Foods with the highest share of production in the US include poultry, meat and eggs, dairy products, almonds, apples, oranges, canned tomatoes, fresh mushrooms and bulk grains. Some of these imports are produced by U.S.-owned enterprises that are located in foreign countries, such as Dole, Del Monte, or Chiquita. If this trend continues, the countries that control our food will control us.
Family and Small Farms, USDA
The Aging American Farmer, Big Picture Agriculture, 2011
America's Future Farmers Already Dropping Away, NPR, Feb 27, 2011
US Agricultural Trade: Import Share of Consumption, USDA ERS, May 30, 2012