Texas agriculture is an important industry. Cash receipts from agricultural producers in 2017 were estimated at $22.8 billion, compared with $20.7 billion in 2016. Agricultural production is associated with considerable upstream and downstream economic activity. Many businesses, financial institutions, and individuals are involved in providing supplies, credit, and services to farmers and ranchers, and in processing and marketing agricultural commodities.
The number and nature of farms have changed over
time. The number of farms in Texas has decreased
from 420,000 in 1940 to 247,500 in 2018, with an average
size of 514 acres. The number of small farms is
increasing, but many are operated by part-time farmers
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 and generally engineered traits have appeared along with improved plants and animals. 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 the concerns of farmers and ranchers.
Changes in Texas agriculture over the last 50 years include:
1. More detailed record keeping that assists in management and marketing decisions;
2. More restrictions on choice or inputs/practices;
3. Precision agriculture takes on new dimensions through the use of satellites, computers, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and other high-tech tools to help producers manage inputs, such as seed, fertilizers, pesticides, and water.
Farms have become fewer, larger, specialized, and much more expensive to own and operate, but are also 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 off-farm landowners is 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 increased livestock production in Central and East Texas.
Pest and disease control methods have improved, and herbicides are relied upon for weed control.
Feedlot finishing, commercial broiler production, artificial insemination, improved pastures and brush control, and reduced feed requirements 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 wild- life management has increased deer, turkey, and other wildlife populations. The use of land for recreation and ecotourism is growing.
Farmers and ranchers are better educated and informed, and more science- and business-oriented. Today, agriculture operates in a global, high-tech, consumer-driven environment.
Cooperation among farmers in marketing, promotion, and other fields has increased.
Agricultural producers also have become increasingly dependent on off-the-farm services to supply production inputs, such as feeds, chemicals, credit, and other essentials.
-- information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension