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Family & Small Farms
Overview
Farms and ranches are of vital importance to the United States. With the vast majority of the population living in urban or semi-urban communities, it is easy to forget the importance and the scope of our agricultural production. NIFA administers competitive and non-competitive funding opportunities that help its partners undertake research, education, and extension activities that support the work of farmers and ranchers across the United States.

Depending on the underlying legislation, partners include universities and other institutions of higher learning, other government agencies, private for profit and not-for profit organizations, and, in a few cases, private businesses.

In 2007, the Ag Census counted just over 2,200,000 farms and 3,281,534 primary, secondary, and tertiary agricultural operators, approximately 1 percent of the population.

These farmers and ranchers play a key role in the U.S. economy. Together, they produced food and fiber with a market value of over $297,200,000 in 2007. And as the Farmers Union noted, American farmers and ranchers produce the most affordable, abundant, safe, and healthy food supply in the world.

Our producers can also play an important role as stewards of the land. A 2006 bulletin from USDAs Economic Research Service notes that more than 922 million acres, about 52 percent of U.S. land is used for all agricultural purposes.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that all farms and ranches are the same. The Ag Census shows considerable variation among U.S. farms and ranches in their size and profitability, their location, what they produce, their value to the nation, and the demographics of the operators.

Three In Focus sections, below, provide more information on this diversity: family farms in general, the many small operations across the United States, and new and beginning farmers and ranchers.

NIFA takes pride in supporting the work of the many agencies and organizations to promote the well-being of U.S. farms and ranches, and highlighting their successes.
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