This blog post is the second in a weekly series throughout July examining opportunities in different sectors of America’s diverse economy.
Nearly one in five Americans live in rural areas, which still comprise the majority of the country’s land area. Yet many communities are facing demographic challenges as young people relocate to urban areas. Diversification is important to the revitalization of the nation’s heartland.
From California’s Central Valley to the Great Plains states, some 62 million Americans live in rural or frontier areas, defined as areas outside of urban centers with no more than 2,500 residents. Though about 80% of U.S. land is rural, rural America is losing population for the first time ever, as interest in retirement in rural areas wanes among baby boomers and younger people continue to relocate to the cities in search of jobs and education.
While most states are gaining population overall, rural counties in much of the nation are in such decline that governments are considering student loans and tax incentives to prevent the depopulation of some areas.
The State of American Agriculture
The population decline in rural America obscures the fact that American agriculture is generally doing well, despite a smaller number of farmers than ever before, due to mechanization. U.S. agriculture exports totaled $115 billion at the beginning of the decade, creating a positive trade balance for this sector of the American economy. Agriculture still accounts for slightly more than half of the nation’s total land area, with California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska and Minnesota making up the top five states by agricultural output, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, which is issued every five years.