Stay Connected

Follow ERS on Twitter
Subscribe to RSS feeds
Subscribe to ERS e-Newsletters.aspx
Listen to ERS podcasts
Read ERS blogs at USDA
Image: Farm Economy


This glossary is intended to provide the user with a working definition of the key terms used in describing this topic area.

Beginning Farm or Ranch

A family farm is considered a beginning farm when a farmer or rancher has not operated a farm or ranch for more than 10 years. This 10-year requirement applies to all operators, defined as members of an entity who will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch. Different USDA programs, with differing goals, may have additional eligibility criteria placed on the definition of a beginning farmer or farm. The Agricultural and Resource Management Survey allows for the identification of farming experience for up to three operators per farm. Because some farms have more than one operator, there are more beginning farmers and ranchers than there are beginning farms and ranches.

Limited Resource Farm or Ranch

Limited resource farms are defined based on low farm sales for two years and low household income for two years. Low farm sales are defined as less than $100,000 in 2003 dollars. The cutoff for low household income is current year income below the poverty level for a family of four with two children or income less than half of the county median household income. Previous definitions also considered a limit on farm assets. However, that requirement was eliminated because of the difficulty in verifying asset values on applications to participate in USDA programs. Instead, the requirement for a second year of low income--which is easier to verify than low assets--serves as an indication of persistently low income.

Socially Disadvantaged Farm or Ranch

A family farm is considered "socially disadvantaged" when the principal farmer or rancher is a member of a group whose members may have been subjected to gender, racial or ethnic prejudices because of their identity as members of a group, without regard to their individual qualities. Depending on the farm program, socially disadvantaged groups include women, African Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Socially disadvantaged farmers have not necessarily experienced prejudices themselves, although they have one or more of these personal characteristics.

Last updated: Monday, November 25, 2013

For more information contact: James Williamson

Share or Save this Page