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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 5, 1999

Background Information on American Farms and Hermitage, Arkansas

November 5, 1999

DESPITE ECONOMIC PROGRESS, RURAL AMERICA HAS NOT SHARED FULLY IN THE NATION'S ECONOMIC PROSPERITY. While parts of rural America have experienced benefits from the remarkable economic growth with new employment oportunities and lower employment rates, some areas are still experiencing high unemployment and high poverty rates. - Farm Income. Farm income is projected to be $48 billion in 1999, up

from $37.2 billion in 1995, the year before passage of the last major farm bill. However, after achieving a record of $55 billion in 1996, income has fallen recently because of slow world economic growth and low farm prices. Nonetheless, agriculture -- particularly agricultural exports -- remains an important component of rural economies. (Economic Research Service, USDA). - Farm Exports. In 1998, the United States exported $52 billion in

agriculture products, a 21% increase from $43 billion in 1993. Exports reached a record high of $60.6 billion in 1996. Agriculture exports generated 871,000 jobs in 1997, and 292,000 of those were on farms. (Bureau of the Census).
- Higher Poverty Rates. Although the average poverty rate throughout

rural America in 1998 was 14.4%, only slightly higher than the national rate of 12.7%, pockets of poverty still remain in many rural communities. USDA has defined 535 rural counties as persistent poverty areas (i.e., at least four decades of poverty rates higher than 30%). (Economic Research Service, USDA). - Earnings. Rural income for typical households (median income) rose

to $32,022 in 1998 from $25,309 in 1993 - a 12% increase after adjusting for inflation and faster that the 9% growth for urban areas, which rose to $40,983 from $33,220 during the same period. Despite this growth, rural incomes are still 78% of urban income. (Economic Research Service, USDA).
- Unemployment. Although rural unemployment rates have improved to

4.8% in 1998 from 7.2% in 1992, the unemployment rate for minorities in rural areas is still high; 10.3% for African Americans and 7.1% for Hispanics. (Economic Research Service, USDA). - Education. The share of rural adults without high school diplomas

improved from 25.5% in 1992 to 21.6% in 1998, and the share of college graduates increased from 13.9% to 15.3% during that same period. Rural education attainment rates, however, remain significantly below urban rates. For instance, 15.3% of rural adults have college degrees, as compared to 24.4% of all adults. (Economic Research Service, USDA).


KEY ECONOMIC STATISTICS FOR BRADLEY COUNTY. Hermitage is a town of about 700 people and is in Bradley County, Arkansas. - In 1997, the median family income in Bradley County was $21,644. - The poverty rate in Bradley County has dropped to 22.5% from 24.9%

in 1990. (Economic Research Service, USDA). - In August 1999, the unemployment rate in Bradley County was 8.5%,

down from 10.7% in August 1998, and 10.6% in August 1997. (Economic Research Service, USDA).

AGRICULTURE, THE LARGEST COMPONENT OF THE RURAL ECONOMY HAS NOT SHARED THE PROSPERITY OF THE REST OF THE ECONOMY; SMALL FARMERS HAVE SUFFERED THE MOST. Agriculture is the mainstay of the rural economy. Although larger farms have weathered the recent years, it has been harder for smaller farms.
- National Farm Income. As noted above, 1999 net farm income is

projected to be $48 billion in 1999, up from $37.2 billion in 1995, but short of its peak of $55 billion in 1996. (Economic Research Service, USDA).
- Household Farm Income. Although agriculture production is the

mainstay in most rural economies many farm families need to supplement their on-farm income in order to earn a comfortable income. In nearly 62% of farm households, someone (a farm operator, spouse or both) held off-farm jobs, and in 25% of all farm operator households, both the operator and spouse worked off-farm. There are many reasons for working off farm, but most households cite financial need as the primary reason. (Economic Research Service, USDA).



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