A new study shows increasing dependence on off-farm employment and income reveals the growing economic interconnection of rural communities and surrounding cities. According to a study by researchers at the University of Missouri, 82 percent of U.S. farm household income now comes from off-farm sources. The study was commissioned by CoBank and completed in partnership with CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange. Most farmers cited reliable income as the top reason for off-farm employment, as one-half of farm households have negative farm income in a typical year. Health and retirement benefits were also cited as key reasons for off-farm jobs within farm households. Among the study’s key findings is that rural communities have increasingly diverse economies, and success within a rural community’s agricultural sector is largely dependent on other sectors of the regional economy at large. Today, only 6.5 percent of workers in rural counties are employed in agriculture, compared to 15.4 percent in 1970.
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