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Farm program commodities are grown on farms with greatly differing input, output, and cost and income relationships. Financial conditions are thus widely diverse. The Farm Costs and Returns Survey of 1986 of the Economic Research Service has provided significant data on this diversity. For example, income is concentrated on large farms. Losses, however, tend to be distributed over many small farms. Direct income support for program commodities is also concentrated on large farms, which also are the major producers. Assets and debts tend to be associated with farms that are most able to repay debt. Farms with the highest value of sales and the highest gross family cash income tend to have the highest income-to-asset ratios. Conversely, farms with sales under $40,000 yield very low incomes relative to assets. Negative incomes (that is, losses) were found in 1986 for about 11 percent of farm families even when off-farm incomes were added in. Nevertheless, in that year, 27 percent of farm families had a total family cash incomes of over $40,000.


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