Farms Decreasing In N.C.

Rising land prices, farm consolidation and an aging work force are adding to the struggles of small farmers in North Carolina.

The number of farms has nearly been cut in half since the mid 1970s. Almost all of the state's counties have lost farms in the
last ten years in a trend farmers are coping with nationally, according to state and federal statistics. Farmers also are holding
on to their land long past normal retirement age.

Federal statistics show farmland cost a record high $1,900 an acre nationwide last year. There were 100,000 farms in North Carolina in 1976, but the number dropped to 55,000 by 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, the average age of a farm owner in North Carolina increased from 54 to
56 years between 1992 and 2002.