BOZEMAN — The U.S. lost an estimated 4,400 farms and ranches in 2020, leaving just over two million agricultural operations across the country. But it’s a different case for Montana.
The Treasure State reported an increase of 100 smaller ag operations, according to the USDA.
Eric Sommer of the USDA National Ag Statistics Service said, "The recent Land and Farm Survey that came out showed Montana had a slight increase in the $1,000 to $9,999 income level."
One reason for the increase is landowners selling off land to be developed.
Sommer noted, "You know, when you go to go to the large cities like Billings Bozeman, Missoula, Helena, you're seeing operators sell off a portion of their property because land values are just so high around these cities. And they're putting in 5, 10, 20-acre ranchettes."
Even with small ranchettes, Sommer explained that if the landowners can produce at least $1,000 in agricultural income, whether through production agriculture or leasing their land for production, USDA counts them.
Sommer said, "These operations, while traditionally they're not an ag production operation, but they do have horses. They do have one or two head of cattle. They have a couple sheep. They could have some hogs depending on their covenants in the area. So they do count as long as they meet that $1000 a year from the egg business And and/or potential.
With the addition of the 100 smaller ag production income properties, Montana's other income level groups remain steady, putting the state's overall total production agriculture businesses to 26,900. With all of that, agriculture remains Montana's number one industry.