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Montana Farm Income Down 30 Percent Agriculture Census Says

An up close shot of wheat
Candace Fladager
Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Wheat in a field near Rudyard, Montana, 2010.


Farm income in Montana dropped nearly 30 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to the new U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture.

The Montana Department of Agriculture says higher input costs, extreme weather and market volatility played a significant role in lower farm income, but notes several bright spots in the data.

The number of women farmers and producers grew by nearly a quarter. And no-till farming, a conservation practice to support soil health, increased nearly 17 percent for a total of eight million acres.

New to the census this year is data on value-added agriculture. The report, which comes out every five years, shows that nearly 300 farms generated over $9 million dollars last year by further manufacturing or processing raw products.

Producers also took more interest in specialty crops. Since 2012, Montana added over 160 new orchards and increased hops production from nearly 0 to 1,400 pounds.

While farm income fell, Montana Department of Agriculture Director Ben Thomas says the report “shows that our producers aren’t taking those hits lying down, as they continue to diversify and adopt new practices to make their operations more resilient.”

Nationally the census shows the number of farms and ranches has fallen but the remaining operations are larger and are responsible for a higher percentage of agricultural sales.

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistic Services' Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures.