The Texas Farm Bureau’s latest survey finds that nearly one in three farmers age 65 and older are planning to retire within the next five years.
And they’re likely to do so in large part because of lower prices.
The survey, released this week, shows that average monthly prices for farms with at least 25,000 acres in the top 5 percent of acreage went up 4.5 percent in 2018 to $1,086.50.
That’s the highest level of inflation for farm prices since 2013.
The price increase is particularly noteworthy because of the growing trend of aging farm families, with nearly one-third of older farm families planning to sell their farm.
The median price for farms that have at least 10,000 square feet of agricultural land in the bottom 10 percent of the income scale is $1.50 an acre, up from $1 an acre in 2018.
The data shows that Texas’ aging farm workforce is a key factor in why the state’s overall farm industry is declining, said Dave Reichert, the bureau’s chief economist.
“There’s a real need for older farm operators,” he said.
Farmers are also finding that the quality of their products has improved, he said, pointing to the arrival of corn that was once a commodity in the Midwest and the growth of soybeans that are now grown in Texas.
“We’re not seeing a shortage of crops,” Reichersaid.
“The quality of our products is improving.
And that’s good for our state.”
But while farm prices are improving, Reichesaid that’s because of a bigger emphasis on food and nutrition, which are two areas that are driving more and more of the growth in Texas’ overall farm sector.
The growth in agricultural production in Texas has been driven by the need for more efficient production.
“You have more producers than you have people to work with,” Reimersaid.
The bureau’s survey of farm operators, farmers and growers, released in December, found that the average income for those ages 65 and over in Texas was $71,400 in 2018, up 7.2 percent from $69,400 the year before.
This is an increase of more than $2,000 per year, compared with the previous year.
The percentage of older farmers in Texas rose from 23 percent to 24 percent over the same time period.
But this increase has not translated into a decline in the number of older producers in Texas, as the number rose to 41 percent in 2020 from 31 percent in 2017.
And the number is projected to rise even more this year, Reimert said.
“It’s a big, big story,” Reichen said.
For example, in 2020, nearly one third of farmers aged 65 and above had a college degree, up nearly 2 percentage points from the year prior.
This year, the percentage of people with a college diploma rose to 28 percent from 24 percent.
The trend of older, lower-income farmers moving into rural areas has been on the rise.
In 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis projected that by 2023, about a third of Texas farm families will be 65 and up.
That will account for more than one in four of all farmers age 50 and over.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics predicts that by 2050, more than half of all Texas farmers will be aged 65 or older.
The BEA also says that by 2030, more older farmers will make up the majority of all older farmers than will younger farmers.
But Reichetsaid that doesn’t mean that the trend is stopping.
“I think the numbers are going to go up, and they are going up faster than the number that we can capture,” hesaid.
In the past, Reisheetsaid that younger farmers were often more focused on production than on nutrition.
“When we started, we said, ‘Hey, this is going to be a really good business.
This will be the year that we’ll do things differently,’ and it worked out that way,” hesaid.
And while there are a lot of challenges facing older farmers, Reinertsaid that the farm sector is starting to take off.
“Farmers are starting to do better and they’re starting to diversify,” he explained.
Reichetsaid said that he thinks that Texas has a “really strong farm sector, which I think is the way to go for agriculture in the future.”
“Farming in Texas is really important, because you need a good-paying job, you need education,” he added.
“And the younger the farm, the more likely it is to be doing those things.”
Reicertsays the growth will be even greater in Texas as farm incomes grow and the demand for food and agriculture increases.
“If we get our agriculture right, I think we will have a lot more people farming and doing things like processing, selling, selling produce, making things like flour and all those things,”