The State of Texas Agriculture
The number and nature of farms have changed over time. The number of farms in Texas has decreased from 420,000 in 1940 to 244,700 in 2012, with an average size of 523 acres. The number of small farms is increasing — but part-time farmers operate them.
Mechanization of farming continues as new and larger machines replace manpower. Although machinery price tags are high relative to times past, machines are technologically advanced and efficient. Tractors, mechanical harvesters and numerous cropping machines have virtually eliminated menial tasks that for many years were traditional to farming.
Revolutionary agricultural chemicals have appeared along with improved plants and animals, and methods of handling them. Many of the natural hazards of farming and ranching have been reduced by better use of weather information, machinery and other improvements; but rising costs, labor availability and high-energy costs have added to concerns of farmers and ranchers.
Changes in Texas agriculture in the last 50 years include:
- More detailed record keeping that assists in management and marketing decisions;
- More restrictions on practices;
- Use of satellites, computers, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and other high-tech tools to help producers manage seed, fertilizers, pesticides and water.
Farms have become fewer, larger, specialized and much more expensive to own and operate, but far more productive.
The number of small farms operated by part-time farmers is increasing. Land ownership is becoming more of a lifestyle used mostly for recreational purposes. The number of non-farm landowners are increasing.
Irrigation has become an important factor in crop production. Crops and livestock have made major changes in production areas, as in the concentration of cotton on the High Plains and livestock increases in Central and East Texas.
Pest and disease control methods have greatly improved. Herbicides are relied upon for weed control. Ranchers and farmers are better educated and informed, and more science- and business-oriented.
Today, agriculture operates in a global, high-tech, consumer-driven environment. Feedlot finishing, commercial broiler production, artificial insemination, improved pastures and brush control, reduced feed requirements, and other changes have greatly increased livestock and poultry efficiency.
Biotechnology and genetic engineering promise new breakthroughs in reaching even higher levels of productivity. Horticultural plant and nursery businesses have expanded. Improved wildlife management has increased deer, turkey and other wildlife populations. The use of land for recreation and ecotourism is growing.
Cooperation among farmers in marketing, promotion and other fields has increased. Agricultural producers have become increasingly dependent on off-the-farm services to supply production inputs, such as feeds, chemicals and credit.
Texas farmers and ranchers have developed considerable dependence upon agribusiness. With many producers specializing in the production of certain crops and livestock, they look beyond the farm and ranch for supplies and services. They rely on suppliers of production needs and services and, on the output side, they need assemblers, processors and distributors. The impact of production agriculture and related businesses on the Texas economy is about $36.4 billion annually.
Since 1940, the proportion of Texans whose livelihood is linked to agriculture has changed greatly. In 1940, about 23 percent were producers on farms and ranches, and about 17 percent were suppliers or were engaged in assembly, processing and distribution of agricultural products.
The agribusiness alignment in 2008 was less than 2 percent on farms and ranches, with about 15 percent of the labor force providing production or marketing supplies and services, and retailing food and fiber products.
— information from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.