Hog farms disappear in latest ag census

Legislative Watch: Value of hogs, pigs sold increased by 38%; House Ag leaders dig in on farm bill positions; USDA announces new youth climate corps.

Eric Bohl

February 16, 2024

3 Min Read
National Pork Board

USDA has released the 2022 Census of Agriculture, a nationwide count conducted every five years. The average age of farmers again increased – this time to 58.1 years – and the number of farms dropped by 142,000, or about 7%, since the 2017 census.

Hog farms folded up shop at a higher rate than others. Almost 65,000 hog farms were counted in 2017, but by 2022 the total had dropped to slightly more than 56,000. This 13.3% decrease was spread across farms from large to small. All nine size categories lost farms, with the heaviest losses in mid-sized farms selling 500-999 hogs per year. This category contracted by almost 27% in just five years.

Even the largest hog farms were not spared. In 2022, there were 151 fewer operations selling over 5,000 hogs than five years earlier. However, this was the smallest percentage contraction among the nine size categories, representing only about a 2% drop.

Despite the loss of farms, total head sold increased by 2%, driven entirely by large operations. Eight of the nine size categories produced fewer hogs in 2022 than 2017, but the drop was more than offset by 3% growth from large producers. Overall value of hogs and pigs sold also increased by 38% over the time period.

House Ag leaders dig in on farm bill positions

Leaders of the House Agriculture Committee continued their recent war of words this week. The committee’s Ranking Member, Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), kicked off the discussion Feb. 7 with a public memorandum laying out what he calls the “Democratic Principles for the Next Farm Bill.” His memo emphatically declared that Democrats will not support moving any Inflation Reduction Act funding to other purposes.

Two days later, Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Penn.) responded with an op-ed in Agri-Pulse, saying, “I have spent the better part of a year working with colleagues and have taken arrows and public missives at every turn. But I am the only one who has put forth an actual plan to move a farm bill and pay for the bipartisan requests.”

On Monday, Scott fired back in the same pages of Agri-Pulse. In his view, Republicans remain too focused on reprogramming IRA funds.

Scott said, “House Republicans continue to propose a dangerous $30 billion cut to SNAP and hollow out the historic climate investments achieved by Democrats in the Inflation Reduction Act. House Democrats are as likely to budge on those issues as House Republicans are to roll back their Trump-era tax giveaways to Wall Street to pay for the farm bill enhancements.”

In Scott’s view, House Republican leadership needs to identify additional funding from outside the farm bill to pay for new or expanded priorities. To date, no outside funds have been promised by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

USDA announces new youth climate corps

This week, USDA announced what it is calling “a new effort to train the next generation of conservation and climate leaders.” The Working Lands Climate Corps is part of President Biden’s American Climate Corps initiative. More than 100 young people will participate in the program’s first cohort.

The Working Lands Climate Corps “will provide technical training and career pathway opportunities for young people, helping them deliver economic benefits through climate-smart agriculture solutions for farmers and ranchers across the country,” according to a USDA press release announcing the program. The program will be a partnership among USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, AmeriCorps, The Corps Network and the National Association of Conservation Districts.

“USDA’s new Working Lands Climate Corps will train a new generation of Americans to help tackle climate change in rural communities across the country,” said Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Xochitl Torres Small. “This program will provide a pathway to continue to build a workforce of people who understand these programs and their promise to support the delivery of billions of dollars in climate-smart agriculture funding made available through President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, putting them on a pathway into good paying careers at the US Department of Agriculture.” 

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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