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USDA: Farm Households Report Working off the Farm to Provide Greater, More Stable Income

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Nearly half of all family farm operators and their spouses reported having a job off the farm in 2018.

The majority of households, regardless of farm size, report that they work off the farm because it is more lucrative than farm work, provides more reliable income, and may offer health and retirement benefits.

Households had the option to report more than one reason for working off the farm.

Among small family farms—those with annual gross cash farm income (GCFI) under $350,000—about 88 percent of these households reported working off the farm because it was more reliable and 75 percent because it was more lucrative.

By comparison, among large-scale farm households—those with GCFI of $1 million or more—about 72 percent reported working off the farm because it was more reliable and 51 percent because it was more lucrative.

In addition, about 40 percent of all principal operators or their spouses who work off the farm listed farm-related financial stress, such as low commodity prices or low farm revenue, as a reason for having a job off the farm.

This chart appears in the March 2020 Amber Waves article, “Family Farm Households Reap Benefits in Working Off the Farm.”