U.S. study outlines importance of off-farm income

A new U.S. study says off-farm income is increasingly important for the farming community.

Researchers at the University of Missouri found 82 percent of U.S. farm household income now comes from off-farm sources.

Most farmers cited reliable income as the top reason for off-farm employment, as one-half of farm households have negative farm income in a typical year.

Health and retirement benefits were also cited as key reasons for off-farm jobs within farm households.

The study was commissioned by CoBank and also found only 6.5 percent of workers in rural counties were working in agriculture, compared to 15 percent in 1970.

The largest single source of employment in rural areas is the service sector, accounting for 57 percent of all jobs.

The majority of residents are commuting to jobs outside their home counties.

As a result, rural and urban communities have grown economically closer.

Counties that were farm dependent in 2015 have seen population decline four percent, but rural counties not farm dependent have grown 55 percent in population.

Off farm jobs are especially critical for young and beginning farmers as they build their business.
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