New data released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows nearly 40 percent of all U.S. farms are managed by more than one operator. USDA’s Economic Research Service says in 2015, 39 percent of the more than 800,000 U.S. farms had secondary operators.
USDA says commercial-sized farms often require more management and labor than an individual can provide. Also, additional operators can offer other resources, such as capital or farmland. Having a secondary operator may also provide a successor when an older principal operator phases out of farming. Because nearly all farms are family-owned, family members often serve as secondary operators and nearly two-thirds of all secondary operators were spouses of principal operators.
Multiple-operator farms are most prevalent among nonfamily farms, accounting for 85 percent of that group. Some multiple-operator farms are also run by multiple generations. About 6 percent of all farms, and 16 percent of all multiple-operator farms, were multiple-generation farms, with at least 20 years’ difference between the ages of the oldest and youngest operators.
(From the National Association of Farm Broadcasters)