USDA has released the preliminary results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The Census shows an increase in the value of agricultural products sold in the U.S. totaling 394.6-billion dollars in 2012 – an increase of 33-percent from 2007. For just the second time in Census history – crop sales exceeded livestock sales. Per farm average value of sales increased $52,286 between 2007 and 2012 – continuing a 30-year upward trend and representing the largest rise in Census history. While the number of farms and land in farms were down slightly – they held steady. The U.S. had 2.1-million farms in 2012 – down 4.3-percent from the 2007 Census. An overall downward trend in mid-sized farms continued – while the smallest and largest-size farms held steady. The amount of land in farms declined from 922-million acres to 915-million between 2007 and 2012. That’s a decline of less than one-percent and is the third-smallest decline between censuses since 1950. The 2012 Census also shows that principal farm operators are becoming older. The average age of a principal farm operator in 2012 was 58.3-years – up 1.2-years since 2007 and continuing a 30-year trend of steady increase. USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Administrator Cynthia Clark says the release of preliminary Census results is just a first look at the data. The final report will be published in May.
Conducted since 1840 – the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The Census tells a story of how American agriculture is changing and lays the groundwork for new programs and policies that will invest in rural America; promote innovation and productivity; build the rural economy; and support our next generation of farmers and ranchers.
Vilsack on Preliminary Census Results
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the preliminary results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture provide a snapshot of a strong rural American that has remained stable during difficult economic times. He notes the loss of farmland has been slowed significantly and new tools provided in the 2014 Farm Bill will help further slow and reverse the trend. Vilsack says the data also confirm farm income is at a record high – but that the prolonged drought and lack of disaster assistance have made it more difficult for livestock producers and mid-sized farms to survive. The farm bill – he says – guarantees disaster assistance and provides additional stability for farmers and ranchers. A bright spot in the data – according to Vilsack – is the slight increase in young farmers and the stable number of small farms and large-scale farms. He says this reflects USDA’s work to grow local and regional food systems and exports. Still – Vilsack says more must be done for mid-sized operations. He says the 2014 Farm Bill will expand support for beginning farmers and new market opportunities for all producers. Finally – Vilsack says the Census data illustrate the strength of diversity in crop production, markets, people and land use across the agricultural sector. While the aging nature of the farming population is a concern – he says there’s hope that trend can be reversed as the next generation of talent is attracted to rural America and retained.
Source: NAFB News Service