GRAPHIC: For family farms, most income comes far afield

Off-farm income contributed an average of 82% of total income for family farms in 2019, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis.  

Almost all farm households in 2019 derived some income from off-farm sources, such as pensions, investment income, or wages and salary from an off-farm job. But small family farms — defined in this instance as having income less than $350,000 — depended on it the most. About half of U.S. farms, according to the USDA, are considered very small, with annual farm sales under $10,000. Small-scale operators of these farms tend to rely on off-farm sources for most of their household income. 

In small “off-farm occupation” farms, where the operator reports a main occupation that’s not farming, off-farm sources of income in 2019 made up 84% of all earnings. In contrast, “very large” farms, with an annual gross cash farm income of $5 million or more, earned only 7% of their total income from off-farm sources in 2019. 

Amanda Perez Pintado is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

A Texas community chokes on fecal dust from cattle feedlots … And regulators aren’t doing anything about it.

This story was produced in collaboration with The Texas Observer , Food and Environment Reporting Network and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. This article may not be reproduced without express permission from FERN. If you are interested in republishing or reposting this article, please contact info@thefern.org.  
Lawrence Brorman eases his pickup through plowed farmland in Deaf Smith County, an impossibly flat stretch of the Texas Panhandle where cattle outnumber people 40 to 1. The 67-year-old farmer and rancher brings the vehicle to a stop at the field’s southern edge.

Announcing our first-ever audience engagement fellow, Anna Casey

Illinois Humanities and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting jointly announced today that Anna Casey has been named their first-ever Audience Engagement Fellow. During the 12-month term of her Fellowship, Casey will work full-time with the Center, a Champaign-based nonprofit investigative newsroom focused on agriculture and agribusiness, to build dialogue with the community members and involve them more deeply in the reporting process.

Applications now open for the Illinois Humanities Engagement Fellowship

We are seeking applicants for the Illinois Humanities Engagement Fellowship at the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting in Champaign, Ill. In collaboration with MCIR and Illinois Humanities staff, the Engagement Fellow will design, develop and implement an engagement program to be substantially integrated into MCIR’s reporting and editorial workflow. Deadline to apply is April 10.