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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LT&C

Louisiana is losing farmers wholesale, but why?

The number of farms in Louisiana has dropped from 27,300 to 25,000 in just the last five years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Census. Following the nationwide phenomena of less yet larger farms, Louisiana is no different.


This census is conducted every five years and is based on survey responses from agricultural producers of farms with $1,000 or more in revenue.


"We are seeing a trend toward bigger farms, but that is not a recent trend," said Neil Melancon of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation. Farms have been in a steady incline in size for decades, driven by consolidation, improvements in techniques and mechanization.


The average farm grew from 292 acres to 319 acres in that same time frame, the census shows. Farms greater than 2,000 acres grew 16% to 1,112 in 2017.


Wes Clement, who farms about 5,000 acres between northeast Louisiana and southeast Arkansas, said that tracks with his experience in 30 years of farming.


"I would say the medium-sized farmer became the large farmer and they took in the small farmer," he said. "Most of the people I know or deal with farm 4,000-10,000 acres."


As farms have grown in average size, the market value of the land and buildings on farms in Louisiana has increased on average to $1.15 million. Just five years ago, that was about $890,000, according to the census. Per-acre farmland went from about $3,000 to $3,600 from 2017 to 2022.


"Cropland and pastureland have been increasing every year," said Maria Bampasidou, an agricultural economist at LSU's AgCenter of the increase in land values. "It's a striking difference."

The rising value of farm and pastureland in Louisiana has been driven even higher by development and new uses, like solar farms.

"We are always competing with rural developments," Bampasidou said.

Clement noted the significant increase in investment groups buying up large tracts of farmland and hiring people to run it.

"They will pay way over value for this land," he said. "I would say $3,600 is low" estimating that land is going for closer to $5,500 or $6,000 per acre now.

Despite these trends, small farms—those that generate less than $2,500 per year— account for more than 40% of the total number of Louisiana farms.

 

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