How, where, and what food is grown in the US?
The federal government tracks data on agriculture in many ways, including what is grown and where, the finances of America's farm businesses, and how many people work on American farms. This page provides some of these measures to answer fundamental questions on food and shows how data helps understand the issues that affect how the country gets fed.
USAFacts categorizes government budget data to allocate spending appropriately, and to arrive at the estimate presented here. The federal government spends on supporting farms and agricultural businesses. The government also spends on agricultural research and services. Agriculture spending and policy are often associated with the farm bill, which is passed about every five years.
Government revenue and expenditures are based on data from the Office of Management and Budget, the Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Each is published annually, although due to collection times.
Level of government
Agriculture industry oversight
Department of Agriculture
Provide subsidies and insurance to farmers
Agriculture industry oversight
As defined by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), a farm is "any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the year." Since the USDA's 1997 Census of Agriculture, the number of farms smaller than 50 acres or larger than 2,000 acres has increased, while farms with sizes between 50 and 2,000 acres decreased.
While the number of family farms (owned by the farm’s operator and relatives) declined this century, these operations continue to account for most farms.
The federal department conducts its Census of Agriculture every five years, surveying every farm in the US and recording characteristics, including land use, size, ownership, and finances. Results from the 2022 Census of Agriculture are expected to be published in 2024.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis defines farm employment as the number of workers directly producing agricultural commodities, either livestock or crops. The number of workers includes farm owners and hired labor. The mechanization of agriculture is a factor in the decline in agriculture jobs, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Each August, the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service releases estimates on the previous year's farm cash receipts. Cash receipts for agricultural products are the gross income from the sales of crops and animal products during a calendar year.
Despite a drop in farm employment and operations, the value of agricultural products has grown in recent decades. The top products by cash receipts produced on US farms are cattle and calves, corn, soybeans, dairy products, and broiler chickens.
Data from the Department of Agriculture shows how agriculture has shifted geographically over the decades. Today, states in the Midwest have higher agricultural cash receipts than those in other parts of the country, though California’s agricultural economy is the largest.
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U), which the Bureau of Labor Statistics produces, tracks price changes of a “representative basket of goods and services,” including food. Food included in this basket is as varied as meats, eggs, dairy, bread, sugar and sweets, and more. Food prices are volatile and subject to price swings related to supply and distribution issues. An example is the rise of egg prices in 2022 and 2023 when an avian flu outbreak affected the supply.
These charts show the annual percent change in CPI-U for food and selected foods.