With total cash receipts from farm marketings at over $9.5 billion in 2001, Nebraska ranked 4th among the 50 states. About $6.1 billion of all farm marketings came from livestock production, and $3.4 billion from cash crops. In 2002, corn accounted for 24% of farm receipts.
Territorial Nebraska was settled by homesteaders. Farmers easily adapted to the land and the relatively rainy eastern region, and corn soon became their major crop. In the drier central and western prairie regions, settlers were forced to learn new farming methods to conserve moisture in the ground. Droughts in the 1890s provided impetus for water conservation. Initially, oats and spring wheat were grown along with corn, but by the end of the 19th century, winter wheat became the main wheat crop. The drought and dust storms of the 1930s, which devastated the state's agricultural economy, once again drove home the need for water and soil conservation. In 1997, a total of 6.9 million acres (2.8 million hectares) were irrigated, a 22% increase from 1987. In 2002, there were 52,000 farms covering 46.4 million acres (18.8 million hectares).
Crop production in 2002 (in bushels) included: corn, 941 million; sorghum grain, 15 million; wheat, 48.6 million; soybeans, 176.3 million; oats, 2.4 million; and barley, 215,000. Hay production was 6.0 million tons; and potato production, 8.6 million hundredweight, (390.1 million kg). In 2002, Nebraska ranked 4th among the states in production of corn for grain and sorghum for grain; and 7th in winter wheat.
Farms in Nebraska are major businesses requiring large land holdings to justify investments. The value of the average farm in 2002 was $673,692. Nebraska farms still tend to be owned by single persons or families rather than by large corporations. The strength of state support for the family farm was reflected in the passage of a 1982 constitutional amendment, initiated by petition, prohibiting the purchase of Nebraska farm and ranch lands by other than a Nebraska family farm corporation.