There are now 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the U.S., according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, released today by the USDA. The agriculture census presents more than 6 million pieces of information, which provide a detailed look at the U.S. farm sector at the national, state and county levels.
“Once every five years, farmers, ranchers and growers have the unique opportunity to let the world know how U.S. agriculture is changing, what is staying the same, what’s working and what we can do differently,” said Dr. Cynthia Clark, the retiring head of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which administered the survey. “Today, we can start to delve into the details.”
Census data provide valuable insight into the U.S. farmer demographics, economics and production practices.
Some of the key findings include:
- Both sales and production expenses reached record highs in 2012. U.S. producers sold $394.6 billion worth of agricultural products, but it cost them $328.9 billion to produce these products.
- Three quarters of all farms had sales of less than $50,000, producing only 3% of the total value of farm products sold while those with sales of more than $1 million – 4% of all farms – produced 66%.
- Much of the increased farm income was concentrated geographically or by farm categories.
- California led the nation with 9 of the 10 top counties for value of sales. Fresno County was number one in the United States with nearly $5 billion in sales in 2012, which is greater than that of 23 states. Weld County, Colorado ranked 9th in the top 10 U.S. counties.
- Eighty-seven percent of all U.S. farms are operated by families or individuals.
- Principal operators were on average 58.3 years old and were predominantly male; second operators were slightly younger and most likely to be female; and third operators were younger still.
- Farms with Internet access rose from 56.5% in 2007 to 69.6% in 2012.
- Corn and soybean acres topped 50% of all harvested acres for the first time.
Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.