Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 28 No. 1 (Winter 2014)


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American Farms Keep Growing: Size, Productivity, and Policy

Article Citation

Sumner, Daniel A. 2014. "American Farms Keep Growing: Size, Productivity, and Policy." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28(1): 147-66.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.1.147


Commercial agriculture in the United States is comprised of several hundred thousand farms, and these farms continue to become larger and fewer. The size of commercial farms is sometimes best-measured by sales, in other cases by acreage, and in still other cases by quantity produced of specific commodities, but for many commodities, size has doubled and doubled again in a generation. This article summarizes the economics of commercial agriculture in the United States, focusing on growth in farm size and other changes in size distribution in recent decades. I also consider the relationships between farm size distributions and farm productivity growth and farm subsidy policy.

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Sumner, Daniel A. (U CA, Davis)

JEL Classifications

D24: Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
Q12: Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets
Q18: Agricultural Policy; Food Policy


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