WASHINGTON — The 2012 Census of Agriculture was released May 2, showing more than 6 million pieces of information that describe the U.S farm sector at the national, state and county levels. According to the data, there are 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States.
Census data is compiled once every five years and provides insight into the U.S. farmer demographics, economics and production practices.
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 percent of the total value of farm products sold, while those with sales of more than $1 million — 4 percent of all farms — produced 66 percent.
Much of the increased farm income was concentrated geographically or by farm categories.
California led the nation with nine of the 10 top counties for value of sales. Fresno County was No. 1 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.
The top five 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).
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.
Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased 11.3 percent 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 percent increase.
Nearly 150,00 farm operators reported selling products directly to consumers. In 2012, these sales totaled more than $1.3 billion (up 8.1 percent from 2007). Organic sales were growing, but accounted for just .8 percent of the total value of U.S. agricultural production.
Key Ohio data
The average age of Ohio principal operators increased from 55.7 in 2007 to 56.8 in 2012. In 2012, the total value of agricultural products sold was $10.1 billion, an increase of 29.7 percent from 2007.
Ohio cropland harvested increased from 9.9 million acres in 2007 to 10.1 million acres in 2012. Ohio ranked 7th nationally in corn production and 5th in soybean production.
Ohio ranked 9th nationally in hogs sold and 11th in milk sales, and ranked second nationally in layer inventory.
In Pennsylvania. Lancaster County, took the top spot out of all U.S. counties with inventory of egg laying chickens at 10.7 million birds. Chester County led all U.S. counties for mushroom sales totaling $396.8 million dollars.
Pennsylvania’s market value of livestock and animal products sold increased 17 percent to $4.62 billion in 2012 compared to 2007. The Pennsylvania counties with the largest market value of sales of livestock and animal products were: Lancaster, with $1.21 billion, an increase of 31.5 percent from 2007; Franklin, with $324.6 million, an increase of 20.4 percent from 2007; and Berks, $303.7 million, an increase of 50.1 percent from 2007.
The Pennsylvania counties with the largest market value of sales of crops and horticulture were Chester, with $535.2 million, an increase of 21.6 percent from 2007; and Lancaster, $261.0 million, an increase of 74.9 percent from 2007.
Expenses to produce agricultural products in Pennsylvania totaled $6.04 billion dollars in 2012, an increase of 23 percent from 2007. Expenses averaged $101,869 across Pennsylvania’s 59,309 farms.
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 percent in 2007 to 69.6 percent in 2012.
Some 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 percent of all harvested acres for the first time. The largest category of operations was beef cattle with 619,172 or 29 percent of all farms and ranches in 2012 specializing in cattle.
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 is changing 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 our next generation of farmers and ranchers.
For access to the complete data series and tools to analyze this information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov. A link to census data will also be available on the USDA Open Data portal, www.usda.gov/data.
Agriculture by the numbers:
• Eighty-seven percent of all U.S. farms are operated by families or individuals.
• Three-quarters of all U.S. farms had sales of less than $50,000, producing only 3 percent of the total value of farm products sold.
• The average age of principal farm operators was 58.3 years.
• Ohio is ranked second nationally in layer inventory; is fifth in soybean production and seventh nationally in corn production.
• In 2012, the total value of Ohio’s agricultural products sold was $10.1 billion, an increase of 29.7 percent from 2007.