Economics Research Service Releases Interesting Findings on Rural America

Listen to KC Sheperd talk with Tom Worth about the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

At the National Association of Farm Broadcasters conference in Kansas City, Farm Director, KC Sheperd visited with the Director of the Resource and Rural Economics Division (RRED) at USDA, Economics Research Service, Tom Worth, about findings from the reports ERS publishes.

“At the Economic Research Service, or ERS, we anticipate trends and identify emerging issues in the area of agriculture, food, resources and rural America,” Worth said. “We do a number of reports and data products that are available on our website to everyone.”

A popular report Worth talked about, called “Rural America at a Glance” looks at population, migration, employment, and industry in rural America.

“It provides a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the 46 million Americans who live in rural America,” Worth said. “There are several findings in this year’s report. One of them is that rural America is- the population is declining.”

Worth said that from to 2020 is the first decade where the rural population decreased. Within that decrease, he added, there is a five percent decrease in people under the age of 18 and a similar decrease in people of working age from 18 to 64.

“However, there was an increase in the population 65 years of age and older that the increase was not enough to offset the decrease of younger people, so there was an overall decrease in rural America,” Worth said.

From 2020 to 2021, Worth said the trend reversed, and there was an increase in the rural population due to migration from metro areas to non-metro or rural areas, but the largest share of that migration were wasle 65 years of age or older.

“So, that leads to another finding in the report that rural America is aging, and in 2021, for the first time, the percentage of the population that is 65 years of age or older exceeded 20 percent or one in five,” Worth said. “Just for comparison, if you go back to 2010, 16 percent of the rural population was 65 years or older.”

Another report that comes out each year called “America’s Farms and Ranches at a Glance,” Worth said, found that 98 percent of America’s farms are family farms.

The Farm Income Forecast released on December 1, is also available to view.

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