In this piece at TheHill.com, Kathryn Boor, the dean of agriculture at Cornell University, opines on the loss of farmers and farmland. She writes:
While I agree with some of the sentiment in the piece, I'm not so sure the situation is as dire as Boor suggests. I went to the USDA report she cited. By pulling data out of the various tables, I was able to create the following table.
The loss of farms she cited occurred entirely among the tiniest of farms, which sell less than $10,000 (note: this is gross sales not profit; $9,999 in sales could be achieved, for example, by selling 6 or 7 feeder calves). Every other sales size category gained farmers. So, what happened between 2014 and 2015? A few really small (probably part time) farmers got out, and a few really small farmers became a bit bigger. One might bemoan the loss of these very small farms, but I think we'd be hard pressed to call it "dramatic and damning" and it has very little to do with larger problem of obtaining more funding agricultural research. In fact, as the USDA document shows, there is a long-run trend toward smaller, larger farms, and part of this can be explained precisely because of technological developments in agriculture that have been labor-saving.
I'm also a bit confused about the stated concern related to lost farmland. In fact, one of the main goals of that agricultural research requested by Boor is to increase agricultural productivity - to get more food using less land and other resources. Getting more food using less land is precisely what we want! That "saved" land can be put to other uses, some of which are likely better for the environment.