America’s farms bigger…but fewer

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Farmland The USDA released its preliminary “2012 Census of Agriculture” report on Thursday, and though the full report has not yet been released, it offers a snapshot of America’s farmers and ranchers.

"The preliminary data released today provide a snapshot of a strong rural America that has remained stable during difficult economic times," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release.

Low points in the report include a 4.3 drop in the number of the nation's farms. In 2007, there were 2.2 million farms reported across the country. By 2012, this number had dipped to 2.1 million. A drop in the number of farms was reported across 34 states.

However, while the number of farms may be dropping, the average size of an American farm grew by 4 percent to 434 ares.

The report also showed that the value of agriculture remains strong, reported at record highs across the board. This is the third straight report to show a rise in values:

 

2007

2012

Change from 2007/2012

 

(in billions)

(%)

All products

$297

$395

33

Crops

$144

$212

48

Livestock

$154

$182

19

"The data confirm that farm income is at a record high. However, the prolonged drought and lack of disaster assistance have made it more difficult for livestock producers and mid-sized farms to survive, Vilsack said. "The 2014 Farm Bill guarantees disaster assistance and provides additional stability for farmers and ranchers."

While older farmers between the ages of 55 and 74 make up more than half of America's agricultural producers according to the census, young farmers between the ages of 24 and 34 years were also slightly higher than reported in 2007.

"A bright spot in the data is the slight increase in young farmers and the stable number of small farms and large-scale farms. This reflects our work to grow both local and regional food systems and exports, but we must do more for mid-sized operations. The 2014 Farm Bill will expand support for beginning farmers and new market opportunities for all producers," Vilsack said.

Click here to read the highlights or full report.


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