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Montana Farmers And Ranchers Producing More On Fewer Farms

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BOZEMAN -

Montana farmers and ranchers are producing more on fewer farms.

That's according the latest agriculture census from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture census shows the number of Montana agricultural products sold jumped from $2.8 million in 2007 to $4.2 million in 2012, a 50 percent increase in five years.

Montana Farm Bureau Vice President of Governmental Affairs John Youngberg said these numbers shows agriculture is continuing to grow.

"If you look at cattle prices, they've been strong, stronger in the last couple of years than they have in the past, wheat prices went up," said Youngberg.

This is with fewer farms across the country.

The USDA said between 2007 and 2012, the number of farms in Montana fell from 29,524 to 28,008.

Department of Agriculture Director Ron de Yong said the number of farms fluctuates and we have more farms today than in 1997.

Matt Flikkema said he's seen fewer people getting out in the fields recently.

"Especially as they age and retire," said Flikkema. "Even if a son wants to come back or a family member wants to come back to take the ranch over, it just doesn't happen because it's not economical anymore."

Youngberg said it's because the costs have gone up on what farmers need to grow their crops, such as equipment, diesel and fertilizer.

As a result, farmers aren't seeing a larger profit.

"Even though the income is way high, the bottom line hasn't changed significantly for agriculture in the past five to ten years," said Youngberg.

Flikkema said he expects the price you pay at the grocery store to continue to rise, but not because farmers are making more money.

"The cost of what it takes to get that product farm to market than what the farmer is getting paid for when he sells his commodities," said Flikkema.

Nationally, the U.S. has lost 72 million acres since 1982, but the USDA said farm sizes in 2012 are up compared to 2007 with the average American farm being 434 acres.

The USDA said new provisions in the 2014 farm bill will help continue to the growth of farmland.

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