(Posted Fri. Feb 21st, 2014)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture results, released today, show an increase in the value of agricultural products sold in the United States totaling $394.6 billion in 2012, up 33 percent from 2007.  While the number of farms and land declined slightly over the period, agriculture as an industry also became more diverse.


“For decades now, the National Corn Growers Association has stressed the importance of farmer participation in the Census of Agriculture as the information found in this survey will be used by federal regulators and legislators as they debate the new programs and policies impacting rural America,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre, who farms in Carmi, Ill. “As the USDA has acknowledged, 2012 was a uniquely difficult year for farmers due to the severe drought conditions that impacted much of the country. While revisions may be made to the final report, the information provided gives us an interesting look at how our industry continues to evolve and into who we truly are as a group.”


For only the second time in Census history, U.S. crop sales exceeded livestock sales in 2012 with crop sales of $212.4 billion dollars and livestock sales of $182.2 billion. The only other instance in which this occurred was in 1974.


Additionally, per farm average value of sales continued a 30-year upward trend and recorded a record rise between 2007 and 2012 of $52,285. This largest rise in census history increased per farm average value of sales from $137,807 to $187,093.


The Census also looked at the changing face of the American farmer. While U.S. farmers are becoming older, with the average age of the principal farm operator at 58.3 years in 2012, the census also showed an increase in minority-operated farms over the 5-year period.


The Census also showed an overall downward trend in mid-sized farms with total farms declining 4.3 percent over the five-year period to 2.1 million in 2012. Notably, both the number of the smallest and the largest-size farms held steady.


 The number of total acres farmed in the United States also continued a slow decline with acreage falling from 922 million in 2007 to 915 million in 2012. While this continued a downward trend, it was the third smallest decline between censuses since 1950 and amounted to less than one percent.


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 changes 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 the next generation of farmers and ranchers.


“The release of the preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture results is only a first look at the data and we are eager to publish the final report this May,” said NASS Administrator Cynthia Clark. “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. NASS is still reviewing all 2012 Census items to the county level and therefore data are preliminary until published in the final report.”


For more information about the Census and to access to current 2012 Census of Agriculture preliminary report, click here.