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The 1978 Annual Report of the Joint Council on Food and Agricultural
Sciences identified "small farms" as an area for special consideration
and coordination efforts by the Council in 1979. At the April 1979
meeting of the Joint Council, members voted to establish an "Ad Hoc
Committee on Small Farms" that would provide the following:
An inventory of existing work and objectives of that work.
-- An identification of work needed but not underway.
A specification of coordination needs.
On July 11, 1979 Cochairmen M. Rupert Cutler and John S. Robins
appointed the following persons to serve on the Ad Hoc Camittee:
-- Allan S. Johnson, Assistant to the Administrator, Economics,
Statistics, and Cooperatives Service, Chairman
-- R. J. Hildreth, Managing Director, Farm Foundation
C. A. Williams, Executive Vice President, Alabama A&M University
Marvin E. Konyha and J. C. Torio of the Science and Education
Administration were assigned to provide staff assistance to the Camnittee.
During the past few years there have been several efforts to inventory
and identify gaps in existing research and extension activities. The
Committee believed that the best approach, given time constraints, would
be to summarize the results of these efforts and develop for consideration
by the Joint Council an overall policy framework for small farm activity,
suggestions on priorities and resource levels, and nore permanent planning
and coordinating mechanisms.
The report is submitted with the hope that it will stimulate dis-
cussion by the Joint Council and from this discussion a consensus
within the agriculture science community will emerge, not on the specific
details of a small farm program but on the rationale for, the relative
size and scope of, and the mechanism for developing the details of such
Copies of this report are available from; Executive Secretary,
Joint Council on Food and Agricultural Sciences, USDA, Room 351-A,
Administration Bldg., 14th & Independence SW, Washington, D.C. 20250.
WABIE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES ................... iv
SUMMARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . v
INVENTORY OF EXISTING SMALL FARM WORK IN RESEARCH, EXTENSION
AND HIGHER EDUCATION ..................... 1
Background .......................... 1
USDA/Land-Grant Small Farm Activities . . . . . . 2
Other Small Farm Activities . . . . . . . 14
Planning Efforts to Meet the Needs of Small-Scale Farmers . 17
Estimate of Current Resources Directed to Small Farms . .. 20
ADDITIONAL WORK NEEDED ................... 24
Research ........................... 24
Extension .......................... 31
Higher Education ....................... 35
A POLICY FRAMEWORK ....................... 36
Rationale for'Public Expenditure for Small Farm Activities . 36
What Not to Expect from a Small Farm Program .. . . . 38
Clinentele of the Small Farm Program . . . . . . 39
Determining Success ..................... 41
Need for Other Small Farm Assistance . . . . . ... 42
SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION ................... .. 43
Coordination ........................ 43
Priorities and Resource Levels . . . . . . ... 43
Data on Small Farm Activity . . . . . . . .. 46
REFERENCES ................. ... ...... . 48
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
1 Distribution of SEA Inhouse Research by Size of
Farms or Industrial Fis . . . . . .
2 Estimate of FY 1980 USDA/Land-Grant Institutions
Resources Directed to Small Farms . . . .
Al Total Publicly Funded Agricultural Research Effort
Compared with Research Activity Directly Belated
to Small Farms . ..............
A2 Small Farm Research Projects in Land-Grant
Institutions by Area of Emphasis, 1977 . .
1 Limited Resource Farmer Classification System . .
1. The current USDA definition of small farm is based on the following
-- Family net income from all sources (farm and nonfarm) is below
the median nonmetropolitan income of the state.
-- The family is dependent on farming for a significant, though
not necessarily a majority, of their income.
Family members provide most of the labor and management.
This is a useful definition for the purposes of identifying those small-
scale farm facilities most in need of assistance. There are an estimated
1 to 1.3 million farms that fall within the context of this definition
(pp. 39-41). However, there are an estimated 700,000 small-scale farmers
(sales less than $20,000) with net family income above the median non-
metropolitan income. These farms should also be viewed as users of
information and technology that is developed by the agricultural science
and education system for small-scale farmers.
2. The actual level of USDA and land-grant institutions' (LGI's) small
farm effort is not known with any great degree of accuracy. Summarized
from various sources, resources by performing institution and major type
of activity for FY 1980 are estimated to be as follows (pp. 21-23):
SEA Units and LGI's ($ mil.)
Total SEA Total USDA
AR CR E & LGI's ESCS & LGI's
oriented 3.0 0.7 32.5 36.2 36.2
oriented -- 1.1 19.5 20.6 0.3 20.9
Total 3.0 1.8 52.0 56.8 0.3 57.1
No estimate is made of higher education resources devoted to small farms.
3. Research gaps that have been identified can be categorized as follows:
Characteristics of small farms
-- Management of resources and product marketing
-- Technology appropriate for small farms
Quality of life for small-scale farm families
Specific research issues are identified for each of these categories
4. Extension needs more systematic evaluation data on both the regular
Extension program as it relates to small farms and the special pilot
small farm projects. Additional data on small-scale fanrer clientele
are also needed (pp. 31-35).
5. The rationale for assisting small-scale farmers is based on the follow-
ing four principles:
-- All farmers, regardless of farm size, should be in a position to
benefit from the agricultural science and education system; because
of varying needs and types of farming, no single method of assist-
ance will suffice--programs must meet the unique needs of small-
scale as well as larger-scale farmers.
-- Simple humanity requires attention be given to those whose needs
are greatest, and human dignity dictates that effort be expended
to assist low income small-scale farmers to raise their income,
from either farm or nonfarm earned income, when it is at all
possible for them to do so.
-- An agricultural system that permits small farms provides the
opportunity for persons to choose small-scale farming or to
combine farming with off-farm employment as a life style.
-- Assistance to small-scale farmers will promote better management
and more effective use of a significant body of the Nation's
natural resources (pp. 36-37).
6. Small farm research, extension, and teaching should not be undertaken
-- to significantly affect the food supply, or
-- for purposes of altering the number of farms producing most of
this Nation's food and fiber (p. 38)
7. Success of a small farm effort should be measured by
-- The number of small-scale farm families whose real earned farm and
nonfarm income increases, with greater emphases given to raising
all farm families above the poverty level.
Number of small-scale farmers who perceive that their quality of
life has improved.
-- Reduction is underemployed rural human resources.
A long-term measure is success or goal, given the above rationale of a
small farm program, might be expressed as follows: There are few in
society who want to farm that are prohibited from earning at least a
part of their income from farming as a result of artificial barriers
to entry such as a lack of available technology or access to technical
advice, and there are few, if any, producers of agricultural products
whose earned farm and ncnfarm income is below their aspiration, given
their propensity to work (ideally this would be equal to or greater
than the median nonmetropolitan income) (pp. 41-42).
8. Suggestions for action
(a) Coordination (p. 43)
A small farm component of both the national and regional research,
extension and higher education planning committees should be
established for three years to serve as a coordinating unit.
(b) Research (pp. 43-44)
Research should be increased by $10 million with $7 million
devoted to nontechnology research and about $3 million for
technology research. The nontechnology research should focus on
identification of the characteristics of small farms and small-
scale farm families along with work identified under the categories
"Cammunity Infrastructure" and "Quality of Life." Additional
increases in technology research beyond those recommended should
not be made until the results of SEA-AR's conference on small
farm technology are available.
(c) Extension (pp. 44-45)
There are currently $5 million in Extension funds devoted to the
special pilot projects. It is recommended that the program be
increased to $10 million and, coupled with the increased research,
a formal evaluation of the program be undertaken over the next
(d) Data on small farm activity (pp. 46-47)
Special category codes should be added to the Current Research
Information System (CRIS) classification scheme to permit identifi-
cation of the relationship of research to farm size. The proposed
small farm subcommittee of the national and regional extension
planning committees should devote immediate attention to
establishing a method to obtain and periodically update
resource data on extension small farm efforts.
INVENTORY OF EXISTING SMALL FARM WORK IN I.SEARC.
EXTENSION, AND HIGHER EDUCATION I/
The agricultural extension, research, and higher education system
of USDA and the land-grant institutions has, over the years, recognized
small farm issues in several ways. The focus has included workshops
sponsored by the Southern Extension Farm Management Conmittee, close
cooperation with the small farm demonstration programs sponsored by the
Tennessee Valley Authority, and small farm seminars and special programs
at both the 1890 and 1862 land-grant institutions and Tuskegee.
Many states have a large number of small-scale farmers who benefit
from general purpose research and extension programs. Efforts are
underway to increase the utility of these general programs to small-
scale farmers. At the same time, the agricultural research, extension,
and higher education system is beginning to develop a more specific body
of knowledge and a methodology for focusing this knowledge on the
technological needs of small-scale farmers so that they may enhance
their income with less reliance on traditional income maintenance
programs. The States have exhibited a willingness to address this at the
local level. The Federal input traditionally has been in the form of a
T/ his section draws heavily from: (1) "The Science and Education
Administration's Research and Extension Programs for Small Farms,"
a Report Prepared for the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural
Development, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations,
U.S. House of Representatives, SEA, USDA (March 1, 1979); and
(2) Jerry G. West, "Agricultural Economics Research and Extension
Needs of Small-Scale, Limited Resource Farmers," Southern Journal
of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 49-56 (July 1979),
,coordinating role in associating local needs with the national interest.
Goals and Objective
The primary goal of the USDA land-grant institutions' small farm
program is to help small-scale farm operators with limited resources
in the following interrelated activities:
1. Develop the technology farm operators and their families need
to carry out their preferred alternatives to increase income
and improve their quality of living.
2. Determine the best ways to transfer technology to small-scale
3. Provide direct educational, technical, and organizational
assistance to operators and their families.
4. Help operators and their families identify and clarify goals,
needs, resources, and opportunities.
5. Help operators and their families clarify and assess alternative
ways of using resources to respond to needs and opportunities.
USDA/Land-Grant Small Farm Activities
The objective of the Extension small farm program is to bring to low-
income farmers information and new technology that will increase
production and income and improve family living. Extension
has emphasized the importance of reaching farmers with less than $10,000
in annual agricultural sales. Seven of 14 Southern States reported
their programs try to reach small-scale farmers not involved in other
Extension activities; some programs emphasize reaching minority farm
operators. In general, these programs are directed at farmers who have
income, farm resources, and educational levels relatively lower than
those of farmers served by other Extension programs. Dairy and beef
herds average less than 30 cows; hog operations less than 20 saws;
field crops per farm less than 50 acres; and vegetable farms average
6 acres in cultivation. Two ways the Extension Service supports and
conducts programs to benefit small-scale and limited resource farmers
and their families are:
1. Contact with small-scale farmers by regular county Extension
staff with regular funding. Depending on the nature of farm-
ing in the various regions, it has been estimated that from
20-to-50 percent of regular county Extension programs in
agriculture and national resources provide same benefit to
small-scale farmers. These small-scale farm families also
participate in regular family living, youth, and community
2. Additional staffing for direct contact with small-scale fanrers
with two types of increased staffing:
(a) Special staff added with special funding, such as the
program initiated in fical year 1976 in which special
funds totaling $2 million were appropriated for Extension
Small Farm and Home Garden programs. ($1 million of this
was available for programs at the 1890 institutions).
(b) Special pilot programs which are being carried on in several
states and especially in Missouri, Minnesota, Texas and 12
other southern states. An estimated 5 percent ($5 million)
of all the resources devoted to agriculture and natural
resources programs by Extension is spent on programs designed
especially for small-scale, part-time farmers with limited
resources. Most of these pilot projects employ people
from local communities who are familiar with the local
needs. With training and supervision by the county agent,
these paraprofessionalss" enroll small-scale farm families
and help them on a regular schedule with management and
other needs. The "paraprofessional" makes a one-on-one
contact by making on-farm family visits. Each "para-
professional" works with 25 to 35 families.
o Highlights and Special Efforts
Results of the Extension special project approach with small-scale
farmers have been documented as follows:
Texas Net farm income increased an average of 48 percent from
1970 to 1974 for small-scale farmers enrolled in the Texas program
(in current dollars). Of equal importance was a substantial in-
crease in the number of participants who also took advantage of
other government and Extension programs. For example, there was a
72 percent increase in the number of farmers contacting their
Extension office for information; 136 percent increase in the
number attending tours, meetings, and demonstrations; a 21 percent
increase in the use of the Soil Conservation Service, and a 19
percent increase in the use of the Farmers Hcme Administration.
Texas has now expanded this program to 15 counties. The Texas
program gives perference to farmers with gross agricultural sales
under $5,000 per year.
Missouri The benefit-cost ratio of the Missouri Small Farm
Family Program was estimated at about 3.5 to 1. An evaluation
involving 61 participants and 45 nonparticipants below 60 years
of age and with less than $10,000 annual sales after 4 years of
operation showed that: (1) over two-thirds of the participants had
realized increased farm sales (in current dollars); (2) 60 percent
used credit as compared to only 35 percent of the nonparticipants
surveyed; and (3) the number of participants indicating Extension
as an important source of information increased. Missouri's 1862
and 1890 land-grant institutions both participate in the Missouri
Small Farm Family Program which now involves 49 program assistants
in 33 counties working with 1,835 small-scale farm families.
Minnesota The results of a pilot Small Farm Project with program
assistants funded by the Governor's Rural Development Council in
1975 was so impressive the State Legislature was persuaded to
provide $75,000 annual funding. The Extension Service is super-
vising five program assistants to work with 150 families in
o Study of Fourteen States' Special Efforts:
Small farms are concentrated in the South. According to the 1974
Census of Agriculture, over 50 percent of the Nation's farms with
annual sales of less than $5,000 and 47 percent of those with sales
of $5,000 $9,000, are located within the Southern States. In their
regular Extension work, 10 of the 13 states have specific objectives
concerning small farms. Several states also conduct special small
Data were collected on 4,543 farmers who participated in 23 small
farm programs in the 13 Southern States and Missouri in 1977-78. 2/
A total of 178 paraprofessionalss" were working with small-scale farm
operators in 130 counties and 54 professional agents were working pri-
marily with small-scale farmers in 66 counties. Farms of the partici-
pants average 155 acres, with 50 percent having under 60 acres.
Outcomes from working with these 4,543 small-scale farmers included:
1. Twelve percent of the farmers have increased annual sales nore
than $2,000 since they began in the program; an increase of
between $1,000 and $2,000 is estimated for 29 percent; 30
percent gained under $1,000; while 25 percent appeared to
have no gain in sales.
2. Sixty-five percent of farms improved production practices.
Changes in production practices, management, and sales are
positively affected by the extent of participation in the
program as measured by frequency of contact, number and types
of assistance received, and participation in meetings, tours,
2/ See: David Orden and Patricia Kicbus Edwards, "Preliminary Evalua-
tion of Small Farm Programs in the Southern United States," pre-
sented at the Southern Small Farm Management Workshop, Nashville,
Tennessee (October 25, 1978);
David Orden and Dennis K. Smith, "Small Farm Program; Implications
From a Study in Virginia," Research Division Bulletin 135, VPI & SU
David Orden and Steven T. Bucoola, "An Evaluation of Southern Co-
operative Extension Programs Aimed at Small Farmers," Presented at
AAEA annual meeting, Pullman, Washington (July 30 August 1, 1979).
Research generally has been directed toward the technological needs of
American agriculture on the basis of problem areas under the implicit
concept that small-scale farmers have many of the same technological
needs as large farmers. The application of such technology has en-
abled same small-scale farmers to became large.
The increased heterogeneity in agriculture with respect to commod-
ities produced, market availability, resource restraints, and size of
farm unit has also impacted on the research agenda. A number of States
now have research projects specifically designed to deal with small farms.
Much of the research on small farms has been directed toward under-
standing the diversity of this group and structuring ways of communicat-
ing and servicing the various types of small farms. More recently, pro-
grams have recognized that small-scale farmers have a need for technology
and techniques designed more specifically for them. The technical aspect
includes techniques adapted to small farm usage, the management tech-
niques to provide for a feasible combination of farm enterprises, funding
techniques to provide access to financing by those who may be regarded
as high risk and high cost credit clients, and new marketing techniques.
o Current Programs:
A survey of land-grant universities in 1977 indicated 30 or more
States had one or more research projects that dealt specifically
with small farm issues. -/ An examination of individual project
CRIS (Current Research Information System) reports in late 1978
/ Jerry G. West, op. cit.; and Jerry G. West, "Issues in Research and
Education Related to Small Farms," SEA, USDA, Washington, D.C.
identified 67 projects with an estimated 27 scientist years
oriented specifically to small farms. All CRIS forms in any way
identifying small farms as subject of inquiry were examined and
only those judged to be of direct relevance to small farms were
included. About 75 percent of these research projects were social
science oriented while the remaining 25 percent were technology
oriented (see Appendix Tables 1 and 2). These 67 projects repre-
sented less than one-half of one percent of all State Agricultural
Experiment Station research projects.
Another 22 projects were marginal in the sense that some aspect
of the project had direct application to small farms or the entire
research effort was deemed to have potential implications for
small farm. These projects are in addition to most of the research
which is not specific to size of farm and which can benefit farms
of all sizes. 4/
Nearly half of the research projects specifically oriented to small
farms are being conducted in the 1890 Institutions and Tuskegee. These
universities, with their traditional concern for the poor, the alien-
ated, and the disadvantaged, have emphasized the problems of the large
proportion of farm operators living on small farms.
SEA-AR scientists have develop many new fruit and vegetable
varieties and production practices which have helped small-scale
4/ Research not specific to size of farm would not be size neutral if
application of the results required large capital investment.
producers and home gardeners to supply their own needs and local
markets. Research in mechanization and harvest aids have contrib-
uted to greater independence and productivity of small-scale fruit
growers. Better breeding stock, improved forage varieties, and
insect and disease control have benefited small-scale livestock
producers. Engineering research on soil drainage using plowed-in
perforated plastic pipe, agricultural equipment to aid harvesting,
and pesticide applicators has addressed problems common to small
and large farms. Marketing and processing studies and demonstra-
tions have sustained market outlets for small-scale farmers by
pooling output of many small-scale farmers into auction markets
and assembly market organizations.
Social sciences research in the USDA/land-grant system has
concentrated on gaining a better understanding of the complex
nature of small farms and exploring opportunities to improve the
well-being of small-scale farm families. Completed research pro-
vides information for assessing the characteristics of small farms
and their resources; identifies same of the kinds of economic
adjustment and marketing activities which would increase incomes
on small farms; and provides same insights into the impact of
technology on small farms. Such findings provide the base from
which expanded efforts can be initiated.
SEA-AR has developed a bibliography for small-scale and organic
farmers that lists 1400 reports by AR scientists, most of them
published since 1950. / The report covers soil tillage, cropping
J W. Schwartz, A Bibliography for Small and Organic Farmers: 1920
to 1978, SEA-AR, USDA, Washington, D.C. (1978).
practices, nutrients, irrigation, and uses of organic matter.
These are plans for a similar bibliography for crop production,
plant sciences, and entomology.
The distribution of SEA inhouse research categorized according
to size of farms or agribusiness firms revealed that 84 percent of
the research effort is not size-specific, six percent is directed
specifically to small-scale operators, and approximately 10 percent
is geared specifically to larger farms and firms. The percentage
estimates by the six major program areas are shown in Table 1.
Increasing evidence that small-scale farmers have specific
technological needs resulted in SEA-AR's FY 79 budget request on
production and marketing systems for small-scale farming. The
Congress appropriated $3 million for a small farms research program.
Implementation of this program includes the development of inte-
grated management systems for small cow-calf and pasture-fed steer
operations and small-scale sheep and goat production on hill lands.
Soil and animal production scientists are working together to select
adapted forage species of grasses and legumes to improve the nutri-
tional status of livestock and provide high quality pastures over
extended seasons, particularly for class V and VI lands. Research
on small-scale methods for processing and distributing animal pro-
ducts to assure quality and safety are also under study.
Crop research centers on the development of improved systems
for production, protection, and utilization of vegetables and small
fruits grown on small farms and in home gardens. The work will
include development of improved nutritional quality and ripening
characteristics suitable to "U-Pick" operations. home gardens
Distribution of SEA Inhouse Research by
Size of Farms or Industrial Firms
Percentage of Effort -
SSize- Small Large d/
Specific Scale Scale -
Marketing and Post Harvest
Technology 71 19 10
Crop Production 88 7 5
Crop Protection 88 1 12
Animal Production and Protection 77 7 16
Natural Resources and Environment 85 6 9
Human Nutrition and Food Safety e/ 100 0 0
Averages 84 6 10
SEstimates were made by the coordinators of SEA-AR National Program
Staff for each of the 67 National Research Programs and their values
were average for the program areas shown.
Work that is not directed at any particular size of farms.
SWork directed specifically or exclusively at small farms (less than
$20,000 gross farm income) or firms (judged to be "small, scattered
producers or agribusiness units that cannot support major research
SWork that would help only, or mostly, large-scale farm operators.
e/ The eight National Research Programs related to human nutrition, health
and safety, and consumer services were presumed to be not size specific
for both producers and processors.
roadside markets, or other fresh market outlets. Pest management
systems that put major emphasis on biological control technologies
will be incorporated into total farm systems.
Engineering research is aimed at providing labor-reducing equip-
nent small-scale farmers can afford, many times taking advantage of
"on-the-farm built" or modified machines. Soil, water, and natural
resource problems specific to small-scale agriculture are studied
including management under conditions of fertility and water stress.
Special emphasis is made for hill lands such as those in Appalachia-
Regional Centers for Rural Development
The Regional Centers for Rural Development at Cornell, Iowa State,
Mississippi State, and Oregon State are directing more attention to
rural development research and extension. Each of the Centers is in
same way attempting to determine what is known about small farms in
the regions, identifying relevant work underway, and initiating
additional efforts. 6/
A task force on small farm research priorities in the north
central region consists of representatives from each state and
includes several scientific disciplines. The task force, with input
from small-scale farmers and people in the farm services business,
SFor example, see: Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development,
"Small Farm Activity in the Northeast: A Directory of Land Grant
University Personnel by Discipline and Subject Area," Cornell
University, Ithaca, New York (June 1979).
identified and prioritized a large number of research topics, 2/
Initial thrusts are focusing on the relationships between farm size
and community viability.
The Northeast Center is working with a committee of Experiment
Station, Extension, SEA, and ESCS representatives to develop a
master program of agricultural systems for small farms in the north-
east. The aim is to provide an educational/technical package
designed for location-specific small farm operations. Two subourm-
mittees were appointed in July 1979 to develop integrated regional
research and extension programs, one in the horticultural area and
the other dealing with dairy-livestock-forage production systems.
The Southern Center has issued three publications relating to small
farms. The first was an attempt to develop a better understanding of
the small farm, its problems, and efforts to improve its situation. 8
A second publication was an annotated bibliography on the role of
communication and attitudes relating to small farms, and the third
was a companion synthesis report of this research material. 0/
SNorth Central Regional Center for Rural Development, "Small Farms
Research Priorities in the North Central Region," Iowa State
University, Ames, Iowa (February 1979).
Southern Rural Development Center, "Small Farms," Rural Development
Research and Education, Vol. 1, No. 4, Mississippi State, Miss.
SSouthern Rural Development Center, Small Farm Operations: The
Role of Communication and Attitudes in Small Farm Programs, SRDC
Bibliography Series No. 4, Mississippi State, Miss. (Septenber 1977).
10 Southern Rural Development Center, The Role of Ccmmunication and
Attitudes in Small Farm Programs, SRDC Synthesis Series No. 4
Mississippi State, Miss. (August 1978).
The Western Center sponsored an effort to assess the resources,
needs, and goals of families on small farms. The States of Oregon,
Hawaii, Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico are participating in
surveys to determine needs by type of small farms and the implica-
tions of these needs for educational or research strategies to
better address the small farm problems.
U.S. Forest Service
With increasing pressures for reduced timber harvesting on
multiple-use public forest lands, there is a need for increased
timber production from the 300 million acres of forests controlled
by small-scale non-industrial private owners. The Forest Service
research and educational activities are increasingly geared to
raising the productivity of these small woodlot owners.
Plans for implementation of the Renewable Resources Extension Act
(P.L. 95-306), to be conducted jointly with the Cooperative Extension
Services, call for increased research and educational programs for
the small woodlot owner in managing these resources more efficiently.
Other Small Farm Activities
There are many other organizations and agencies conducting various
types of projects and programs for small-scale farmers in addition to
those of the USDA/land-grant system. A few examples are cited here to
indicate the wide variety of these activities.
California's Small Farm Viability Project
This project, which was jointly sponsored by four State departments,
sought to determine what the State could and should do to make the
small farm more viable as a source of livelihood for rural people. ii/
The central activity of the project was a series of task forces com-
prised of over 70 qualified persons from farming, banking, government
agencies, the academic ocamunity, the California Cooperative Extension
Service, community organizations, the legislature, labor and other
fields. The findings of the various task forces have been compiled
in a final report, which attempts to survey comprehensively certain
problems of small farm agriculture in California. 2/
It is worth noting that the Small Farm Viability Project has
ended up unexpectedly optimistic about the essential viability of
small farms when they are well structured and managed, and when
public policy at least gives them a fair shake vis-a-vis their larger
This project represents a major non-agribusiness corporation's
effort to serve small farmers through the development of computer
assisted small farm management packages.
The Control Data Corporation (CDC) is working with the University
of Minnesota to develop and field test the necessary data bases for
various small farm enterprise combinations in the upper midwest region.
i-/ William E. Myers, "Comments on Small Farm Research: California's
Small Farm Viability Project," in U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Small Farm Issues: Proceedings of the ESCS Small-Farm Workshop,
May 1978, ESCS-60, Washington, D.C. (July 1979).
/The Family Farm in California: Report of the Small Farm Viability
Project, State CETA Office, 800 Capitol Mall, MIC 77, Sacramento,
California (November 1977).
TVA Developing Small Farm Agriculture
The Tennessee Valley Authority has sponsored several assistance
projects to small farms, including the program "Developing Small
Farm Agriculture." This program, sponsored jointly by TVA and the
Cooperative Extension Service in the seven Tennessee Valley states,
places primary emphasis on more productive use of farm family labor
in various livestock or horticultural enterprises.
This joint TVA-Extension program has piloted the use of small
farm agricultural aides for several years. In general, TVA pro-
vides limited financial assistance to participants for obtaining
fertilizer, seeds, and plants, or in developing marketing outlets.
Extension provides the educational assistance through the program
aides. In FY 1978, there were 526 participating small-scale farmers
in the program. Plans are being made for significantly expanding
this program if future resources are available.
This nine-county project, centered in Elkins, West Virginia, was
initiated in 1970 by the Rockefeller Foundation and West Virginia
University as a two-county demonstration of direct assistance to small-
scale farmers. 1/ As Rockefeller funding phased out, the University
of West Virginia assumed full responsibility for the demonstration.
The project works with about 60 small-scale farmer "cooperators"
who are provided a package of management, agronomy, animal science,
and animal health educational materials.
13/ Barton S. Baker, Marvin R. Fausett, Paul E. Lewis, and E. Keith
Inskeep, "Progress Report on the Allegheny Highlands Project:
Agriculture, January-December 1978," College of Agriculture and
Forestry, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia,
For half of the cooperators, the assistance is provided through
regular Cooperative Extension Service local offices, which, in turn.
receive research and training backup from a Staff of scientists and
assistants in these four fields of science. The other half of the
cooperators receive assistance directly from the project's staff.
Preliminary comparison indicates that small-scale farmers benefit
equally well from either approach.
Planning Efforts to Meet the Needs of Small-Scale Farmers
In addition to the activities described, deliberations continue
in Congress, the Department of Agriculture, the land-grant universi-
ties, and various public and private institutions over the appropriate
response to the needs of small-scale farmers. Three of these stand
out as being of particular significance. One was the series of small
farm conferences held in 1978 through the joint efforts of the USDA,
Community Services Administration (CSA), and ACTION. The second is
the Small Farm Project of the National Rural Center, and the third
was an ESCS-sponsored small farm workshop. It is likely that the
outcomes of all these activities will influence future programs
directed toward small farms.
Small Farm Conferences
Five regional small farm conferences were cosponsored by USDA,
the Comunity Services Administration, and ACTION during 1978. 4/
14/ Ovid Day, Theron Bell, and Marjorie Berninger, "Begional Small
Farms Conferences: National Summary, "USDA, CSA, ACTION,
Washington, D.C. (December 1978).
The purposes of the conferences were to: (1) provide a national
voice for small-scale, limited-resource farmers; (2) learn of pro-
blems that are most important to them; (3) provide the small-scale
farmer more direct access to Federal programs; and (4) identify
needed program improvements. Approximately eight small-scale farmer
delegates were selected by state and local organizations to repre-
sent the small-scale farmers in each state--a total of about 400
small-scale farm operators and spouses.
Many of the concerns expressed by small-scale farmers were those
common to all farmers. They included: low prices for farm products,
increases in prices of inputs, and the problems for farmers posed
by inflation. Some of the problems identified were those which pri-
marily affect larger farm such as inheritance tax laws, restrictions
on irrigation acreage under the Reclamation Act, and the effects of
minimum wage laws and the Food Stamp Program on the cost and avail-
ability of hired labor.
Other concerns were more unique to small farm operations. They
were lack of information about government services and programs,
need for managerial assistance, inability to compete for enough
land to provide a viable full-time farm operation, and the lack of
information on technology appropriate for small farms.
As a follow-up to the conferences, the Rural Development Committee
in each state was asked to establish a Small Farm Task Force to
formulate programs at the state level. While land-grant university
research and extension personnel were not directly involved in the
small farm conferences, they are represented on the State Rural
Development Committees and are generally involved in helping to
formulate responses to the needs expressed and in planning for
The National Rural Center Small Farms Project
The National Rural Center (NRC) is a private, non-profit cor-
poration established to "develop policy alternatives and to provide
information which can help rural people improve the quality of life
in their communities." Small farm issues were selected by NRC as a
major policy development effort in the belief that small-scale
farming can provide an option for earning income and that many
people want to exercise that option.
A project was developed by NRC to enhance the level of know-
ledge about problems facing small-scale farm families and to pro-
vide information which would be helpful to policy makers in
deciding what approaches government ought to take toward helping
families living on small farms.
Although still in process, this NRC project has helped to (1)
clarify problems facing small-scale farmers, (2) identify research
needs which have not been adequately addressed, and (3) suggest
national program changes and policy initiatives which are supported
by existing research and past experience to enhance small farm
1/ National Rural Center, Toward a Federal Small Farms Policy,
Phase I: Barriers to Increasing On-Farm Income, NRC Report
No. 9, Washington, D.C. (Noveber 17, 1978); and J. Patrick
Madden and Heather Tischbein, "Toward an Agenda for Small
Farm Research a Preliminary Report," presented to AAEA
annual meeting, Pullman, Washington (July 30 August 1, 1979).
The committee benefited greatly from early draft papers of
Phase II of the NRC small farms project.
ESCS Small Farm Workshop
In light of the increased attention being given to small farm
problems, the ESCS sponsored a research workshop May 3-4, 1978. 6/
Workshop participants discussed issues, research, and information
needs concerning small-scale farmers and their families. In back-
ground papers, panel presentations, and working group discussion
the participants stressed the diversity of the small farm population
and, for the most part, agreed that the appropriate point of reference
for research is the small-scale farm family rather than simply the
This conference identified three general categories of research
needs. The first deals with the small farm as an agricultural pro-
duction unit and one source of family income. The second category
considers the small-scale farmer and his family as members of rural
society who depend largely on nonfarm income for family living and
whose presence may affect the availability of and demands for goods
and services in the community. The third area recognizes the impact
of agricultural and rural development policies and programs on small-
scale farmers and their families.
Estimate of Current Resources Directed to Small Farms
There are no accounting or reporting procedures in the USDA/land-
grant institution system for clearly identifying resources directed
to small farms research and Extension activities. In some instances,
the Congress has earmarked funds for specific small farm efforts. On
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Small-Farm Issues: Proceedings
of the ESCS Small-Farm Workshop, May 1978, ESCS-60, Economics,
Statistics, and Cooperatives Service, Washington, D.C. (July 1979).
other occasions, the agencies or universities have channeled non-
earmarked funds into specific small farm projects.
The following estimates (Table 2) of current small farms program
resources represent a ombinatian of: (1) Congressionally earmarked
funds; (2) an extensive assessment of land-grant university experiment
station research project descriptions; (3) fairly accurate estimates
of ESCS small farm research activity and Extension resources devoted
to intensive work with small-scale farmers; and (4) a "best guess"
estimate of regular Extension work that directly benefits small-
The estimates of resources are further divided into those that
are technology related and nontechnology related.
It is estimated that over $57 million are now devoted to small
farms work by the USDA/land-grant institutions system. Some $5.1
million supports small farms research; the remaining $52 million
are utilized for small farms Extension work.
In FY 1979 the Congress appropriated $3 million to SEA-AR for
specific small farms research. These funds are directed to
technology related research in the areas of crop and animal pro-
ductivity and protection.
A 1978 analysis of FY 1977 Experiment Station projects identified
67 projects, totaling $1.6 million, that were specifically concerned
with small farms (see Appendix Tables 1 and 2). Approximately 40
percent of these resources were directed to technology oriented
research; nearly half of the projects are being conducted in the
1890 institutions. It is estimated that FY 1980 expenditures on
small farms projects will be $1.8 million.
ESCS will devote $0.3 million to nontechnology oriented small
farms research in FY 1980. The thrust of this work will be to
develop an improved small farms data base and typology studies to
more clearly define and identify the small-scale farmer population.
Extension has only $2 million Federal funds earmarked for small
farms programs, but the State Extension Services are putting an
estimated $25 million of Smith-lever funds a year into this effort
and a further $25 million of State and local funds. Half of the
$2 million is utilized by the 1890 institutions.
It is estimated that $5 million is now devoted to special efforts
providing intensive, one-on-one assistance to small-scale farmers.
An evaluation of these programs in 14 States had indicated a program
cost per participating small farmer of approximately $500. 1/ At
this level, the intensive projects are reaching an estimated 10,000
small-scale farmers, out of a population of 1.0 to 1.3 million
Nearly two-thirds of the Extension resources devoted to small
farms are directed to technology oriented work.
7/ Orden and Buccola, op. cit., pp. 2-3.
Estimate of FY 1980 IBDA/Land-Grant Institution's Resources
Directed to Small Farms
SEA Units and LGI's
AR CR E & LGI's
0.7 32.5 36.2
ADDITIONAL WORK NEEDED
As noted in the proceeding section, there have been several work-
shops and projects conducted recently for the purpose of identifying
research, educational, and programmatic needs of small-scale fanrers
in the thited States. Although not claimed as a definitive list of
needs, the following categories have been compiled as broadly repre-
sentative of the major small farm issues and needs which have been
articulated or identified.
Characteristics of Small Farms
The report of the ESCS small farm workshop noted that "the most
pressing problem in small farm research is the lack of information
about characteristics and goals of the small farm population." 18/
Population data bases provide information on income, employment, and
characteristics of families and individuals, but they give very
limited information on farming. Agricultural data bases offer de-
tailed information on farms but only limited information on the
characteristics of farm families.
Areas of needed research under this problem area include:
(a) Total available resource base (human, physical, economic).
(b) Types and numbers of small farms.
(c) Total economic contributions of all family members to the
farm and the household.
(d) Consumption and family living expenditure patterns.
1/ U.S. Department of Agriculture, p. cit., p. 2.
(e) Roles and functions of family members including decision-
making, use of household labor, and role switching.
(f) Risk management and the role of risk in small farms.
Management of Resources and Product Marketing
The central issue here is the small-scale farm family's ability
to realize full benefit from all its resources both farm and non-
farm. To what extent are small farms earning less than their potential
due to inadequate farm management and marketing strategies" Are small
farms actually less efficient than medium or larger units? What
production and marketing practices can improve the farm income of
small-scale farm families?
Additional questions include the following:
(a) To what extent can alternative market outlets be developed?
(b) Effects of labor laws and other government regulations on
costs of production and on markets accessible to small farms.
(c) What is the potential for use of forward pricing and contract
marketing on small farms?
(d) What is the relationship between the market system and market
information and the management and marketing strategies
employed by small farms?
(e) What farm management strategies are appropriate for the full-
time small-scale farmers and part-time small-scale farmers?
(f) What capital and investment strategies are needed by small-
What is essentially called for in the management and marketing
area are subsystems of production and marketing information in at least
four areas: (1) fruit, vegetable, and nut; (2) livestock and poultry;
(3) forage; and (4) ornamental horticulture. These subsystems need
to be area specific for different regions of the county. Also needed
is an overall farm management approach to pull together the various
production and marketing opportunities, including potential enterprise
combinations of the above subsystems, into a framework which includes
off-farm income opportunities of family members.
To what extent do institutions external to the market (credit,
information, service, etc.) serve the needs of small-scale farmers
and what are the factors that may hinder utilization of these insti-
tutions by small-scale operators?
Numerous research and education issues may be cited, including
(a) What institutional procedures may be developed for obtaining
inputs at lower cost (e.g., cooperative buying, machinery
(b) What is the optimal use of the small-scale farm operator's
time in obtaining and learning to apply new technical
(c) What are the barriers to use of existing technical infor-
mation by small farms?
(d) What is the cost effectiveness of alternative strategies
for delivering technical information to small-scale farmers,
and what are the factors related to the success or failure
Of alternative strategies?
(e) What are the attitudes toward and perceptions of small-scale
farmers by those in private firms and public agencies who
provide services to them?
(f) What are the attitudes of small-scale farmers toward, and
their utilization of, community services?
(g) What are the training needs of agencies, organizations, and
businesses serving small farms?
(h) Are there potentials for alternative institutional arrange-
ments for providing services and resources to small farms?
(i) Are new institutional arrangements needed for providing
credit and capital to farm operators with limited security
Technology Appropriate for Small Farms
Can alternative technologies appropriate machinery, buildings
and equipment, production and marketing systems be developed for use
by small-scale farmers? Are labor intensive technologies available
for small farms where labor is plentiful and potential earnings from
off-farm employment are very limited? Since much basic technology is
already available, 'small farm technology research should be of a
highly applied nature.
Some specific small farm technology related issues are:
(a) Alternative systems of livestock production, handling, and
marketing, including specialty animal and fish products.
(b) Alternative systems of crop production (including specialty
crops), harvesting, handling, and storage, including oppor-
tunities for group efforts.
(c) Energy efficiency and self-sufficiency alternatives for
(d) Usefulness of non-traditional products in production (e.g.,
liquid lime, soil conditioners, algae products, and trace
(e) Methods of animal, rodent, and pest control to reduce loss
of farm products.
(f) What are the potentials for modification of existing tech-
nologies and testing these modifications on small farms?
Quality of Life for Small-Scale Farm Families
The quality of life for small-scale farm families is inextricably
linked to the communities in which they live. Likewise, the viability
of rural communities may be linked with the existence and viability
of a small farm sector in those communities.
Since many small-scale farm families rely on off-farm jobs as
a primary source of income, what do we know about the nature of this
dual employment activity and the conditions under which expansion of
off-farm jobs in rural areas would be most effective in helping small-
scale farmers improve their well-being? What are the characteristics
of communities with a large proportion of small-scale farm families,
and what are the conditions under which public sector employment or
direct assistance may benefit small-scale farm families?
Additional issues to be addressed relating to quality of life for
small-scale farm families include:
(a) What are the aspirations, goals, and expectations of small-
scale farm families?
(b) Are small-scale farm families satisfied with occupation,
family life, and living environment?
(c) How do they regard organizational involvements?
(d) What is the capacity of small-scale farm families to cope
with crises and changing conditions?
(e) What is the availability of community services and facilities
for meeting health, mental health, educational, vocational,
transportation, and other needs of small-scale farm families?
(f) How do their housing and living environments compare to
others? Is financing available for housing improvement
(g) What is the health and nutrition status of small-scale farm
families? Do they have adequate access to group life,
health, and accident insurance programs?
(h) What is the availability of social and recreational facil-
ities for small-scale farm families? Do they utilize such
(i) What training is needed to prepare farm operators or family
members for off-farm work, or for on-farm nonagricultural
income producing activities?
(j) What combination of farm and off-farm employment is most
coniensurate with optimum allocation of family resources
in various geographic regions?
The issues identified for additional work in the above categories
suggest a need to address a wide variety of public policy issues as well.
Public policies may have different effects on the economic circumstances
of farms of different sizes. Two broad policy research areas identified
are: (1) analysis of the effects of public policy (tax, price, income,
etc.) and other forces on the number and economic situations of small
farms and other farms; and (2) analysis of the effects of alternative
size structures and size-structure policies an economic and social goals
of society. Specific policy research issues include the following:
(a) Are policies (agricultural and nonagricultural) biased in
favor of farms of particular sizes and types?
(b) How well do current Federal and State agricultural, income
assistance, and other programs meet the needs of small-scale
farmers and their families?
(c) hat are the differential effects an farms of varying sizes
fostered by uniform incremental changes in product prices,
incomes, and volume of production?
(d) What would be the effects of alternative policies preferential
to farms of varying size, such as: (1) graduated levels of
premiums inversely related to farm size; (2) income supplement
payments to farms below a specified size income; (3) more
government assumption of risk through interest supplements
graduated to farm size: (4) elimination of set-aside require-
ments associated with any crop production control program for
small-scale farms; (5) limitations on total of all types of
compensatory payments to any individual; or (6) compensatory
payments as either cost-sharing or income supplements for
practices important to the economic viability of small farms?
(e) What are the relationships between the level and stability
of income and small-scale farmers' mobility?
(f) What is the relationship between risk reduction from disaster
protection or crop insurance and farm viability by farm size?
How would alternative types of programs distribute benefits and
costs (in the case of insurance) among farms of different sizes?
Although Extension has conducted special pilot projects for small-
scale farmers in many States which are fairly well documented, there
are no definitive data on the extent of small-scale farmer participa-
tion in regular Extension activities, most of which are probably not
specific to farm size. While many small-scale farmers undoubtedly
benefit from mediated, nonsize specific Extension activities, it
appears that small-scale farmers do not avail themselves of such
activities to the same extent as larger-scale farmers.
The Extension small farm pilot projects appear to have confirmed
the hypothesis that same small-scale farmers do not benefit as much as
others from regular Extension activities and that small-scale farmers
will participate in and benefit from intensive education activities
conducted by someone they can more easily relate to on a level they
In designing Extension programs for small-scale farmers, whether
as part of regular Extension activities or as intensive, one-on-one
programs utilizing small farm program aides, more specification of the
small-scale farmer clientele is needed. While fully two-thirds of all
farmers may be classified as "small-scale" using a $20,000 gross
sales level as the criterion, clearly not all such farmers either
desire, require, or stand to benefit from intensive Extension assist-
ance (see the section in this report on "Clientele of the Small Farm
Program," p. 39).
Further, within the "eligible" small farm categories there are
varying degrees of market orientation, receptivity to farm improvements,
and farm versus nonfarm focus. As classified by Brinkman, Driver, and
Blackburn, / each small-scale farmer will have differing potential to
benefit from assistance, as they differ on these three scales (Figure 1).
Additional information about and evaluation of both regular and
intensvie Extension programs for small-scale farmers are needed.
Regular Extension Programs
Concerning regular Extension programs, the following additional
information is needed:
(a) What is the actual, as compared to the potential, participa-
tion rate of small-scale farmers in these programs?
(b) Do small-scale farmers avoid these programs because of socio-
cultural barriers between themselves and professional
Extension staff, or because the information and assistance
G.L. Brinkman, H.C. Driver, and D.J. Blackburn, A Classification
of Limited Resource Farmers Based on Behavioral and Economic
Characteristics, School of Agricultural Economics and Extension
Education Pub. No. 77-3, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
Limited Resource Farmer Classification System
STRONG MARKET ORIENTATION
I LIMITED MARKET ORIENTATION
Receptive TO farm Improvements UnreceptiveTo Farmimprovements
TRANSITION STAGE POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL
for land and credit
to make. farm
son will take over
in the near future
Programs to reduce
risk on loans and
Some expansion pro-
Personal and Physlial Problem
Majority in late
50's and early 60's
Don't expect son
to take over farm
Programs to achieve
labour saving equip.
and programs to re-
duce risk from
and capital invest-
Possible Full -Time Farmers-- ---- -Permanent I Pait-Tme Farmers-
for farm expansion
by nonfarm job
for land and credit
POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL PERMANENT PART-TIME
RECEPTIVE TO CHANGE
Rely on Supplemental
to make changes
for farm focused
farmers are applic-
Committed to operat-
ing farm in conjunc-
tion with nonfarm
Established and New
Farmers, both young
or middle aged
Programs to achieve
greater labour effic-
Programs to improve
IN MAINTENANCE STATE
WITH INCOME DERIVED
Programs to reduce
risk from production
prices and capital
Programs to improve
IN MAINTENANCE STATE
WITH INCOME DERIVED
.MIIILY FROM NONFARM
sized farms as a
prise to nonfarm job
Difficult to motivate
for farm improve-
Programs to improve
Personal and _psad Problem
TRADITIONAL RETIREMENT AGE
Not adjusted to Over age 65
commercial orien- Less active
station of economy Reluctant to make
Oriented to self- changes in farm
of farms 30 or 40
Low Mgt. ability
Programs must focus Possible retirement
on management coun- programs
selling before re-
Peoirsol end ,aecol Peroblnem
as farm focused ex-
cept these farmers
Programs the same
s for farm focused
Farm for a hobby
or form of rec-
Not likely clien-
tele of either ag-
ricultural or non-
are inappropriate for their needs? Is scale of farm operation
the primary factor for non-participation in regular Extension
(c) What are the specific educational needs of small-scale farmers?
Are long-standing Extension methods of involving clientele in
program development effective for small-scale farmer programs?
(d) What proportion of Extension work is not specific to size?
Can these mediated activities be modified to make them more
appealing or useful to small-scale farmers?
(e) Do regular Extension programs adequately address the needs
of the entire small-scale farm family or do they tend to
focus primarily on the farm operator's needs?
(f) To what extent are small-scale farm families benefited by the
nore general rural development activities of Extension?
Intensive Small-Scale Farmer Programs
Regarding the Extension programs providing intensive assistance
to small-scale farmers, there is a need to know the following:
(a) What proportion of small-scale farmers may be expected to
participate in and benefit from such a program?
(b) What is the optimum small-scale farmer client load for each
program aide or Extension professional?
(c) What is the optimum length of time for a small-scale farmer
to participate in the intensive program? What are the
graduation or dropout rates for such programs, and what are
the reasons for the terminations?
(d) To what extent do these intensive programs address the needs
of the entire small-scale farm family? Do comparisons exist
between those assisting primarily the farm operator and those
addressing the needs and abilities of the whole small-scale
There appear to be two ways higher education institutions can
help the small-scale farmers; first, through their regular degree
programs and, secondly, through nontraditional degree programs pro-
vided for members of small-scale farm families.
Those regular degree program students who will become the primary
local Extension contact for small-scale farm family members or local
agency administrators for small farm assistance programs may benefit
from added course work on farm and family management and the socio-
eccnnmics of small farms.
Nontraditional degree programs may need to be tailored to the
needs and resources of small-scale farm families and their communities.
It may be feasible to utilize rural community professionals as volunteer
teachers, providing career options which enhance the potential of small-
scale farm families for economic and social mobility.
A POLICY FRAMEWORK
,Rationale for Public Expenditure
for Small Farm Activities
Determining whether all or some of the gaps identified in the
preceding section should be filled, and at what rate, requires the
formulation of a rationale for public expenditure for small farm
activities. There has not been enough attention devoted to the
formulation of a rationale and the measures of program success that
would be derived from it. In addition, there has been no clear
purpose to much of the small farm activity, making evaluation
difficult if not impossible. Those who control the use of public
funds are reluctant to support proposals for increased activity
without an adequate evaluation of present activities.
Of perhaps even greater negative significance is an unrealistic
expectation of what the agricultural science and education community
can achieve. Projects have been initiated in an atmosphere of great
missionary zeal where proclamations on objectives have not been sub-
ject to the test of realism. Disappointment has been an all too ccmmon
result of such undertakings even when positive results have been achieved.
The rationale for assisting small-scale farmers should be based
on four principles:
1. All farmers, regardless of size, should be assisted by the USDA
land-grant college and university agricultural science and
education system. Because of varying needs and types of farm-
ing, no single method of assistance will suffice; programs
must be developed to meet the unique needs of those who oper-
ate small-scale farms as well as larger-scale farmers.
2. Simple equity requires that attention be given to those
whose needs are greatest, and human dignity dictates that
effort be expended to assist low income small-scale farmers
to raise their income, from either farm or nonfarm earned
income, when it is at all possible for them to do so.
3. An agricultural system that permits small farms provides the
opportunity for persons to choose small-scale farming or to
combine farming with off-farm employment as a life style.
4. Assistance to small-scale farmers will praomte better manage-
ment and more effective use of a significant body of the
Nation's natural resources.
These principles offer a solid rationale for undertaking research,
extension and higher education activity oriented to small-scale farm
families or, for that matter, any other type of activity oriented toward
small farms. This is not to say that it has higher priority than all or
any other activities performed by the public sector. It merely says
that small farm activity appears to fall within the category of legitimate
activity performed by the public sector. How many resources at various
levels of total Federal and State budgets should be devoted to small
farm activity can only be determined through the political process; how-
ever, soae general recommendations with respect to resource levels appear
in the last section of this paper. For any given level of resources
within the agricultural area, a balance will have to be struck between
activities that assure an adequate supply of food and those activities
that assist small-scale farm families. While there is some cample-
mentarity among these activities, they compete for the limited
resources available to agriculture.
What Not to Expect from a Small Farm Program
Two arguments that have been used to support a small farm research,
extension and higher education effort lack validity and have tended to
confuse the planning and evaluation of small farm activities.
First, and most important, a small farm effort should not be under-
taken for purposes of significantly affecting the food supply. Small
farms account for only a small component of agricultural output. By
definition, and within any reasonable expectation of the number of small
farms, they will have little impact on the future total supply of food
and fiber. Research, extension and teaching efforts concerned with
assuring adequate supplies of food and fiber must be directed to large
farms or not specific to size of farm. This is not to say that small
farms will not have a significant impact on the production of certain
specialty crops and same types of livestock. However, in terms of the
aggregate supply of food and fiber, the impact of small farms will
remain very small.
Second, and related to the first point, is that small farm research,
extension and teaching activities should not be undertaken for purposes
of altering the number of farms producing most of this Nation's food
and fiber. If the number of such farms is to be changed, it will have
to be done using other more powerful tools of public policy--tax and
price policy, restriction on resource use, etc. Research, extension
and teaching programs can facilitate a particular size structure but
they cannot be the principal force behind any reduction in the level
of concentration in the farm sector.
Clientele of the Small Farm Program
The current USDA definition of a small farm is as follows:
-- Family net income from all sources (farm and nonfarm) is
below the median nonmetropolitan income of the state,
The family is dependent on farming for a significant, though
not necessarily a majority, of its income, and
-- Family members provide most of the labor and management.
Using a corrbination of Census and data collected by ESCS, Carlin
and Crecink have developed the following matrix: 20/
$20,000 gross sales
farm businesses A B
-inccme: $13,800 in 1977
Low Income 1,000,000 300,000
Size of farm business
The 700,000 farms in cell "A" of the matrix sales less than
$20,000 but income above the median nonmetropolitan income are small
farms, but they do not have the income problem that makes assistance
so essential. While there are no doubt exceptions, one or both members
20/ Thomas A. Carlin and John Crecink, Small Farm Definition and Public
Policy, presented at the AAEA annual meeting, Pullman, Washington,
(July 30 August 1, 1979).
of the farm family earn considerable off-farm income, suggesting a
relatively high level of education and the ability to utilize agri-
cultural research results with a minimum of direct assistance.
The 500,000 farms in cell "B" account for most of this Nation's
output of food and fiber. The output of the agricultural research
community is quickly adopted by this group. The future concentration
of farming in the U.S. is largely dependent upon the number of farms
in this cell, and to same extent cell "D", and not by the number of
farms in cells "A" and "C".
The 300,000 farms in cell "D" have sales exceeding $20,000 but
have incomes below the median ncnmetropolitan income. Their size
suggests that farm income is important and that they would be large
enough so that improvements in their farming operation could signifi-
cantly improve their family income situation. It is quite likely that
many of the farm families in this group have limited off-farm incomes.
The one million farms in cell "C" are small in terms of sales,
but more importantly in terms of their needs, they are below the
median ncnmetropolitan income. While the number is not known, many
of these farm families are in poverty.
Small farm research, extension, and education activities should
be focused toward farm families in cells "A", "C", and most of those
in cell "D"; those currently below the poverty level should receive
first priority. The major focus of farm oriented research and
extension would be on those in cells "C" and "D" who wish to remain
active in farming and have the physical health to do so. For others
in cells "C" and "D", the focus should be on helping them increase
their off-farm income and to take advantage of the full range of
services available to them in their community. It would seem safe
to assume that small farm research or research not specific to size
that was beneficial to farms in cells "A" and "B" would be adopted
by them; only minimal effort would be needed to package the info-
mation for their use.
Based on the above rationale and clientele, the following factors
can serve as means of quantifying the success of any small farm effort
by the agricultural science and education community:
1. The number of small-scale farm families whose real earned farm
and nonfarm income increases--greatest emphasis would be given
to raising all farm families above the poverty level.
2. Number of small-scale farmers who perceive that their quality
of life has improved.
3. Reduction in underemployed rural human resources.
A long-term goal, given the stated rationale of a small farm pro-
gram, might be expressed as follows: There are few in society who
want to farm that are prohibited from earning at least a part of their
income from farming as a result of artificial barriers to entry, such
as a lack of available technology or access to technical advice, and
there are few, if any, producers of agricultural products whose earned
farm and nonfarm income is below their aspiration, given their pro-
pensity to work (ideally this would be about equal to or greater than
the median ncnmetropolitan income level). The specification of the
longer-term goal belongs in the political arena and will no doubt
change over time. However, it would seem desirable to express this
in terms other than the preservation of some arbitrary number of
small farms, however they are defined.
Except for the first factor listed above (income), measurement
will be difficult. A part of the research and evaluation effort
must be directed toward developing ways to measure these other
Need for Other Small Farm Assistance
The agricultural science and education system alone cannot
bring about success as measured by the above factors. Extension
personnel can determine the specific needs of small farms within
a given community and fulfill these needs when it involves technical
assistance. However, if needs are largely credit, for example,
there must be public or private institutions prepared to make
credit available. There must be a commitment by the full range of
public and private institutions to help the small-scale farmer so
that the efforts of the agricultural science and education community
can be of greatest benefit.
SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION
This section focuses first on suggestions for coordination needs.
These are followed by ideas on priorities and resource levels.
The Joint Council should consider the inclusion of a small farm
component in its regional and national planning and coordinating struc-
ture for research, extension, and higher education. A small farm com-
ponent of these planning bodies could provide a mechanism to pull
together the many excellent efforts currently underway (Rural Develop-
ment Centers, SEA-AR's planned conference on Technology for Small
Farms, National Rural Center, USDA-CSA-ACTIIW small farm pilot pro-
jects, the work of State small farm committees, etc.) to conduct
additional planning activities and serve as a catalyst to bring about
appropriate implementation of the plans. The small farms area needs
special planning attention at this time. Thus, the small farm task
force should be established and supported until the basic program is
designed and implemented, but for no longer than three years.
The small farm planning task force or subcommittee should be
guided by the policy framework specified in the preceding section and
by the suggestions on priorities and resource level identified below.
Priorities and.Resource Levels
The identification of the characteristics of small farms and work
in the areas of "Community Infrastructure" and "Quality of Life" are
of the highest priority. Little has been done in these areas; however,
the output of this work is essential in developing any meaningful
overall small farms program, particularly an extension program.
Resources devoted to all of the nontechnology work totals an esti-
mated $2.0 million in 1980. Given the cost of acquiring the needed
data, it would seem reasonable to increase this level of funding by
about $7.0 million. This could be reduced after 3-5 years to a
level sufficient to periodically update the basic data and to deal
with topical policy issues and conduct program evaluations.
Technology research related specifically to small farms totals
about $3.7 million in 1980. There is, however, a large amount of
technology research that is not related to size that is or could be
of benefit to small farms. The small farm work should not exceed
$5.0 $6.0 million until the results of a number of activities,
particularly SEA-AR's conference on small farm technology scheduled
for next year, are available.
With these adjustments, the total small farm research program
would be about $15.0 million.
The results of the Extension paraprofessional approach have been
impressive. An extension program developed along these lines will be
needed to bring about measurable success. But this is a costly pro-
gram. It has taken an annual cost of about $500 per farm family to
bring about the results discussed earlier in this report. The exact
number of farmers in categories "C" and "D" of the matrix who could be
helped by such a program is not known, but it would be quite large.
Thus, at $500 per farm family, the annual cost of expanding this
program to the national level would run into the hundreds of
millions of dollars.
Currently, $5 million of Extension funds are devoted to the
special pilot projects. While mudc has been learned about the suc-
oess of these programs, they have not been designed to generate the
kind of management data needed to formulate a national program. For
example, it is not known with any degree of certainty whether inten-
sive involvement by Extension is needed each year for the farm family
to maintain past increases in income and achieve further increases or
whether intensive involvement is needed only every other year or
every third year. Answers to questions of this type are essential
in determining resource requirements for a national program.
It is reconnended that the program be increased to $10 million
and, coupled with the increased research, a formal evaluation of
the program be undertaken over the next three years.
No estimate is available of current small farms efforts of
higher education; hence, it is not possible to suggest any changes
with respect to future funding. It seems obvious, however, as the
needs and desires of small-scale farmers become better known,
higher education will have an important role in the design and
implementation of programs to meet these needs and desires.
Source of Resources
Additional funding for small farm research should not cone from
redirection. This is not to say that all current activity is of
higher priority than some of the identified small farm research
gaps. Some redirection can take place and research directors and
administrators should look for opportunities to include such
adjustments. However, agricultural research has generally been
underfunded in recent years relative to other uses of public funds,
given the rates of return that have been estimated for agricultural
research. Therefore, it would seem appropriate that new initiatives
be funded primarily from increased resources.
With extension, it is somewhat less clear given the great un-
certainty surrounding the level of current effort. However, there
is immediate need to sharpen the focus of the special pilot programs
and this can only be done by adding resources specifically earmarked
for the program.
Data on Small Farm Activity
There is no periodically updated data base on small farm activity.
The data that the task force utilized in this report are the product
of several one-time efforts by individuals or groups to meet the
specific data needs of their assignment. The small farm planning
groups recommended in this report need to give immediate attention
to this problem.
On the research side, special category codes should be established
to show the relationship of the research to farm size. These cate-
gories would be as follows:
Small Farm: The research is undertaken for the purpose of solving
a problem unique to small farms. For this purpose small farms are
defined as those with sales less than $20,000 and/or family income
below the nonmetropolitan median income.
Not Size Specific: The research is undertaken to deal with
particular problems that are related equally to all size groups of
farms. Most basic plant and animal research would fall into this
Large Farm: The research is undertaken for the purpose of
solving a problem unique to large farms.
If a small farm subcommittee of the National Research Planning
Committee of the Joint Council's planning and coordination structure
were to be established, it should monitor the use of the codes and
add appropriate specificity to the definitions to get some degree of
consistency in their use. The Planning Committee should also under-
take an analysis of the work that is identified as "not specific to
size" to determine whether the application of the results tend to
be biased toward any particular size farm--i.e., is research not
specific to size really size neutral?
The current estimate of $52,0 million is thought by some to
grossly underestimate Extension's actual small farm effort. The
small farm subcommittee of the National Extension Planning Committee
should take the lead in establishing a method to obtain and period-
ically update resource data on Extension's small farm effort.
Bay, Ovid, Theron Bell, and Marjorie Berninger. Regional
Small Farm Conferences: National Summary, Washington,
D.C.: USDA, CSA, ACTION (December 1978).
Baker, Barton S., Marvin R. Fausett, Paul E. Lewis, and E.
Keith Inskeep. "Progress Report on the Allegheny High-
lands Project: Agriculture, January-December, 1978,"
Morgantown, West Virginia: College of Agriculture and
Forestry, University of West Virginia, 1979.
Brinkman, G. L., H. C. Driver, and D. J. Blackburn. A
Classification of Limited Resource Farmers Based on
Behavioural and Economic Characteristics, Pub. No. 77-3,
Guelph, Ontario: School of Agricultural Economics and
Extension Education, University of Guelph, 1977.
Carlin, Thomas A. and John Crecink. "Small Farm Definition
and Public Policy," Pullman, Washington: presented at
the AAEA annual meeting (July 30-August 1, 1979).
Madden, J. Patrick and Heather Tischbein. "Toward an Agenda
for Small Farm Research--a Preliminary Report," Pullman,
Washington: presented at the AAEA annual meeting (July 30-
August 1, 1979).
Myers, William E. "Comments on Small Farm Research:
California's Small Farm Viability Project," Small-Farm
Issues: Proceedings of the ESCS Small-Farm Workshop,
May 1978, ESCS-60, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department
of Agriculture (July 1979).
National Rural Center. Toward a Federal Small Farms Policy,
Phase I: Barriers to Increasing On-Farm Income. NRC
Report No. 9, Washington, D.C.: National Rural Center
North Central Regional Center for Rural Development. Small
Farms Research Priorities in the North Central Region,
Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University (February 1979).
Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. "Small
Farm Activity in the Northeast: A Directory of Land
Grant University Personnel by Discipline and Subject
Area," Ithaca, New York: Cornell University (June 1979).
Orden, David and Steven T. Buccola. "An Evaluation of
Southern Cooperative Extension Programs Aimed at Small
Farmers," Pullman, Washington: presented at AAEA annual
meeting (July 30-August 1, 1979).
Orden, David and Patricia Klobus Edwards. "Preliminary
Evaluation of Small Farm Programs in the Southern United
States," Nashville, Tennessee: presented at the Southern
Small Farm Management Workshop (October 25, 1978).
Orden, David and Dennis K. Smith. Small Farm Programs:
Implications From a Study in Virginia, Research Division
Bulletin 135, Blacksburg, Virginia: Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University (October 1978).
Schwartz, J. W. A Bibliography for Small and Organic Farmers:
1920 to 1978, Washington, D.C.: Science and Education
Administration-Agricultural Research, USDA, 1978.
Science and Education Administration. "The Science and
Education Administration's Research and Extension
Programs for Small Farms," a Report Prepared for the
Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and
Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House
of Representatives, Washington, D.C.: SEA, USDA (March 1,
Southern Rural Development Center. The Role of Communi-
cation and Attitudes in Small Farm Programs, SRDC
Synthesis Series No. 4, Mississippi State, Mississippi
Southern Rural Development Center. Small Farm Operations:
The Role of Communication and Attitudes in Small Farm
Programs, SRDC Bibliography Series No. 4, Mississippi
State, Mississippi (Summer, 1977).
State CETA Office. The Family Farm in California: Report
of the Small Farm Viability Project, Sacramento, Cali-
fornia (November 1977).
United States Department of Agriculture. Small Farm Issues:
Proceedings of the ESCS Small-Farm Workshop, May 1978,
ESCS 60, Washington, D.C. (July 1979).
West, Jerry G. "Agricultural Economics Research and
Extension Needs of Small-Scale, Limited Resource Farmers,"
Southern Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 11,
No. 1, pp. 49-56 (July 1979).
West, Jerry G. "Issues in Research and Education Related
to Small Farms," Washington, D.C.: Science and Education
Administration, USDA (mimeo), 1979.
APPENDIX TABLE 1
Total Publicly Funded Agricultural Research Effort
with Research Activity Directly Related to Samll
Type of Research Projects
Total State and Federal
Total in State Agricultural
Social Science Oriented Small
Farm Research: **
Technology Oriented Small
Farm Research: **
Total Small Farm Research: **
Projects Classified as
Marginal to Small Farm
* Total research effort is from SEA/CR published data
data is from CRIS forms for fiscal 1977.
for fiscal 1977 while small
farm research fund
** All CRIS forms in any way identifying small farms as subject of inquiry were examined and only those
judged to be of direct relevance to small farms were included, Only projects at 1862 and 1890
Land Grant Institutions were included.
Source: Jerry G. West, "Agricultural Economics Research and Extension Needs for Small-Scale, Limited
Resource Farmers," Southern Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol, 11, No, 1, pp, 49-56 (July 1979).
_ __ ___
APPENDIX TABLE 2
SMALL FARM RESEARCH PROTECTS IN LAND GRANT INSTITUTIONS
BY AREA OF EMPHASIS, 1977*
Enterprise Conbination (12)
Other Areas (13)***
Information taken from CRIS forms with only those projects in-
cluded which were directly related to small farms.
** Figure in parentheses indicates number of projects.
*** Other areas includes finance (3), transportation (1), government
programs (2), off-farm employment (2), human capital (3), social
dimensions (1), and community impacts (1).
Source: Jerry G. West, "Agricultural Ecorxnics Research and Extension
Needs of Snall-Scale, Limited Resource Farmrs," Southern
Journal of Agricultural Econmnics, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 4-56
*U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE : 1980 0-310-945/SEA-27