On May 5, USDA released its long-awaited Census of Agriculture, the first update since 2007. Following are some of the key production, financial, economic and demographic data contained in the 2012 Census of Agriculture that will serve as the basis of much of the research that media, government and financial markets will utilize until the next Census in 2017.
• 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 #1 in the U.S. with nearly $5 billion in sales in 2012, which is greater than that of 23 states. Weld County, Colo., ranked 9th in the top 10 U.S. counties.
• The top 5 states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion).
• Families or individuals operate 87% of all U.S. farms.
• 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.
• Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased 11.3% from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012.
• All categories of minority-operated farms increased between 2007 and 2012; the Hispanic-operated farms had a significant 21% increase.
• 144,530 farm operators reported selling products directly to consumers. In 2012, these sales totaled more than $1.3 billion (up 8.1% from 2007).
• Organic sales were growing, but accounted for just 0.8% of the total value of U.S. agricultural production. Organic farmers reported $3.12 billion in sales in 2012, up from $1.7 billion in 2007.
• Farms with Internet access rose from 56.5% in 2007 to 69.6% in 2012.
• 57,299 farms produced on-farm renewable energy, more than double the 23,451 in 2007.
• 474,028 farms covering 173.1 million acres were farmed with conservation tillage or no-till practices.
• Corn and soybean acres topped 50% of all harvested acres for the first time.
• The largest category of operations was beef cattle with 619,172 or 29% of all farms and ranches in 2012 specializing in cattle.
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