Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ag Census

This time last year farmers were struggling with the Census of Agriculture forms so you could know all about us! That is a much cussed and discussed topic among farmers!

Looks like it gave us a new glimpse of American agriculture though"

"The number of farms in the U.S. grew 4 percent over five years, according to results of the 2007 Census of Agriculture released Wednesday by USDA, with figures showing a trend toward both smaller lifestyle farms as well as an increase in the number of the largest operators.

"Through the census, we're able to take the aspects of agriculture that make it most unique -- the numbers and the people -- and incorporate them into the most accurate profile possible of U.S. agriculture," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"The Census of Agriculture is far more than a tally of numbers. It's a reflection of the people -- and their livelihoods -- behind those numbers ... truly the People's Department at work. And it's a guide to putting dollars and resources into programs and services that will serve the people well in this century."

The 2007 Census counted 2,204,792 farms in the United States, a net increase of 75,810 farms. Nearly 300,000 new farms have begun operation since the last census in 2002. Compared to all farms nationwide, these new farms tend to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also work off-farm.

In the past five years, U.S. farm operators also have become more demographically diverse. The 2007 Census counted nearly 30 percent more women as principal farm operators. The count of Hispanic operators grew by 10 percent, and the counts of American Indian, Asian and Black farm operators increased as well.

The latest census figures show a continuation in the trend toward more small and very large farms and fewer mid-sized operations. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of farms with sales of less than $2,500 increased by 74,000. The number of farms with sales of more than $500,000 grew by 46,000 during the same period.
Census results show that the majority of U.S. farms are smaller operations. More than 36 percent are classified as residential/lifestyle farms, with sales of less than $250,000 and operators with a primary occupation other than farming. Another 21 percent are retirement farms, which have sales of less than $250,000 and operators who reported they are retired."

I guess we fit into that later category. I can see the reason for the changes as our population ages and competitiveness in agriculture remains as strong as ever. "You have to get bigger or get out" still rules production ag.

Still you have people like me while young farmers still make it into farming some way. It is really amazing how the young ones make it, often with little help.

I see that as a real good thing in America. Someone said on the news that even though we have had a turbulent 30 years resulting in this bad economy right now "I see new businesses and viability in the next 30 years."

If you fit into any of the above categories, congratulations! It is good to be part of these statistics for me.

Ed Winkle

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