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Final Census of Agriculture data released to the public

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has released the final results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

During a May 2 webcast, NASS officials shared wide-ranging information about what agricultural products were raised in the United States in 2012, and examine where, how and by whom they were grown. National, state and county level data was being made available, including information that is only collected and reported as part of the every-five-year census. To make accessing the information easier than ever, NASS created a number of online tools.

For additional information about the Census of Agriculture and tools to access and share the data, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov. A link to census data also is available on the USDA Open Data portal, www.usda.gov/data.  

Officials said specialty crop data was made available within the report’s database, however, a more specific compilation of findings in this commodity area will not be coming until December.

Among the key findings include an increase in the value of agricultural products sold in the United States totaling $394.6 billion in 2012, up 33 percent ($97.4 billion) from 2007. The number of farms and land in farms were down slightly, but held steady. Additionally, agriculture is becoming more diverse.

The released information indicated:

About 4 percent of farms produce 66 percent of agriculture production in the country.

The 2012 production cycle represented an abnormal year due to the severe drought in the central portion of the U.S.

Total value of agricultural products sold in 2012 was $395 billion (a 32.8 percent increase over 2007).

Solar panels dominated renewable technology in 2012 (36,331 farms).

Conventional tillage was the most popular land-use practice (105.7 million acres).

Texas led the way in number of farms in 2012, followed by Missouri.

The number of farms in operation was 2.1 million in 2012, a 4.3 percent decline from 2007. The number of acres farmed also decreased.

A total of 1.1 percent of the farms had more than 44 percent of the total sales.

“We are pleased to announce the release of the Census of Agriculture, as well as new tools to make the information easier to use than ever before,” said NASS Administrator Cynthia Clark.

“The scope of information down to the county level will be invaluable, showing trends, changes and innovations in agriculture over time. This highly-anticipated data will help farmers, ranchers, policymakers, agribusiness and a host of others make decisions for the future.”

The census provides a wide range of demographic, economic, land, and crop and livestock production information as well as first-time or expanded data.

To simplify access to these data, NASS created a number of online tools for people to find and use data of interest.

Clark said the ability to find data across and between these subjects will enable one to learn, for example, the percent of all farmers in the U.S. who were beginning farmers in 2012, what types of crops they grew and in which states or counties they are located; how much the value of sales of a certain crop increased from 2007 to 2012 in a particular county; which is the leading county for number of farms with community supported agriculture sales; and much, much more.

“There is a lot of interest in the new census data because they are the only data that show us the complete picture of U.S. agriculture,” said Clark.

USDA had released the preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture results in February.            

The 2012 census reported several historic changes in value of sales for agriculture producers in the United States:

In 2012, crop sales of $212.4 billion exceeded livestock sales of $182.2 billion.            

This occurred for only the second time in census history; the other time was 1974.

Between 2007 and 2012, per-farm average value of sales increased from $137,807 to $187,093, continuing a steady 30-year upward trend. The increase of $52,285 was the largest rise in census history.

Preliminary data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture also highlighted national and state farm numbers, land in farms and farmer demographics.

The 2012 census showed principal farm operators are becoming older and more diverse; following the trend of previous censuses. In 2012, the average age of a principal farm operator was 58.3 years, up 1.2 years since 2007, and continuing a 30-year trend of steady increase.

In 2012, the United States had 2.1 million farms – down 4.3 percent from the previous census in 2007. In terms of farm size by acres, this continues an overall downward trend in mid-sized farms, while the smallest and largest-size farms held steady.

Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of land in farms in the United States continued a slow downward trend, declining from 922 million acres to 915 million acres. This is a decline of less than 1 percent, and is the third smallest decline between censuses since 1950.

Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.

“The 2012 census was not conducted in a typical crop year, and drought had a major impact on U.S. agriculture, affecting crop yields, production and prices,” Clark said.

Gary Pullano 

Originally posted Friday, May. 2, 2014

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