U.S. Farm Households’ Social and Economic Needs and the Future of Agriculture

Farm families are embedded in a complex agri-family system. Within the micro-level of this system, the farm household and the farm operation are interconnected through the constant exchange of resources (i.e. time and money). Challenges faced by the farm business can therefore have negative consequences on the farm household, and likewise, challenges faced by the farm household can negatively impact the farm business.

Very little is known about how household challenges impact the farm business. Directly connected to this knowledge gap is a limited understanding of the ways in which existing social programs and policies (which are specifically designed to meet these needs) may support farm sector profitability, survivability, and resilience. To help close this knowledge gap, the USDA’s Economic Research Service and Farm Foundation  hosted a one-day, virtual conference on September 13, 2023 focused on U.S. farm households’ social and economic needs.

Through a mix of paper presentations and panel discussions, the goal of  U.S. Farm Households’ Social and Economic Needs and the Future of Agriculture was to:

1) Broaden the long-standing body of work seeking to understand why, how, and which farm families are able to cultivate successful farm businesses in the face of on-going changes and the inherent instability of the agricultural sector,
2) Initiate the scientific debate on the linkages between farm households’ social and economic needs, social policies, and farm business development,
3) Develop new networks of family farm scholars working on these topics,
4) Better understand data available to understand these relationships, as well as identify data gaps.



Post-Event Report

Farm Household Needs Directly Affect Farm Business Viability

Potential Research Questions Connected to the Theme

What are farm households’ lived realities meeting their social and economic needs?

In what ways do the social and economic needs of the household shape decisions connected to the farm operation’s production and marketing decisions?

How do gender, race, ethnicity, and geography intersect with and influence farm household’s social and economic needs and the farm enterprise experiences, decision-making and trajectory?

To what extent can federal and state social safety net programs and policies bolster and increase the profitability, viability, survivability, or resilience of the farm operation?

What theoretical, data and/or methodological limitations are limiting the exploration of farm families’ lived realities meeting their social and economic needs and the intersection with farm business development and viability?

Important Dates

Submissions deadline for papers – July 20, 2023

Submitters notified of decision – by August 7, 2023

Conference date – September 13, 2023

Conference contributors will also have the opportunity to submit a paper for inclusion in a special issue of the journal Agriculture and Human Values. The deadline for the submission of papers for consideration in the special issue is November 30, 2023.

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