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Commercial farms with gross annual sales of $40,000 or more (28 percent of all farms) generally had positive after-tax rates of return to equity in 1985. But noncommercial farms, those with gross annual sales of less than $40,000 (72 percent of all farms), showed small after-tax losses. The farm economy has deteriorated since 1981 when farmland values began to decline. By 1984, farming households earned only about 80 percent as much as the national average, compared with their historic high in 1973 when they earned almost 50 percent more than the national average. As many as 15 percent of all farm operators who were in business before 1980 may leave farming for financial reasons before the current economic adjustments end. Rural counties and communities whose economies rely on agriculture will have trouble maintaining many services as declining farmland values shrink tax revenues.


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