1. Technology – Mechanization and Automation will continue to increase. The fast improvement in technology, the reduction in available agriculture labor, and the increased demand for food (both row-crop and table food crop (farm-to-table or produce crops) will drive more advancement in technology – particularly in areas that improve efficiency and reduce the need for workforce. Last year, our farm drastically changed our fertilizer management technology, which reduced fertilizer application time from 30 days x 5 workers to one week and 2-3 workers.
2. Technology – Rural Broadband improvement. This is a “must-have” for successful farming. The current public noise favors the improvement of rural internet access, but also woefully under-estimates the needed bandwidth (see previous rants – I mean posts – on this topic). For agriculture to continue to meet market demand as the number of industry players shrinks and the requirement for technology increases, adequate bandwidth will be required.
3. Production – Specialization along the production spectrum. From row-crop to consumer production, farmers will continue to narrow their production focus. Expensive equipment, government regulations, lack of adequate workforce, will drive farmers to specialize in those agriculture areas that are more profitable, of more interest, or are a better fit with the farmer.
4. Farm Business – Growth of the Family Farm Operation. The issue of “corporate farm ownership” is a myth. There are very few non-family “corporate” farms, but as more very small farms are sold off due to lack of family successors, those family farms with a large family owner base or a strong multi-generational farming culture will continue to grow. Unfortunately, I see a lot of farmers contemplating “next-generation ownership” in a farm landlord model, not a “boots on the ground” farm model. Small farms will continue to be absorbed by large farms, except for the growing “niche” farm operation in produce farming, experimental technology farming, urban farming, and the like.
5. Change for Success – Adapt, Adapt, Adapt. The technology of farming will continue to adapt to changes in political, cultural, technological, and climate. As new growing seasons bring new challenges, from too much water (or not enough), to tariffs (or not), to consumer demand for source information coupled with the technology to provide it, the farming industry will continue to evolve to stay profitable despite the changes. Farmers that cannot succeed in a changing environment will leave the industry or be absorbed by farmers who can adapt.
John Phipps, “Are Economics Driving the Future of Family Farms?” Ag Web, January 6, 2020
Wade Barns, “What’s Ahead for Agriculture? 4 Predictions for 2020” Farm Progress Farm Business, December 30, 2019.
For purely statistical reading check out the USDA publication, “USDA Ag Projections 2020”