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Ag Census Details Released

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released nearly all of the data from its 2012 Census of Agriculture Friday, with the results showing that U.S. producers had both record high sales and production expenses that year. Sales hit $394.6 billion, with production costs at $328.9 billion.

The Census, taken every five years, has some 6 million pieces of information. It's unlkely any farmer or rancher would ever have time or the inclination to read all of that, especially in the middle of a delayed, rainy planting season. So here are a few other highlights, courtesy of NASS:

  • 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%.

  • Corn and soybean acres topped 50% of all harvested acres for the first time.

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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% 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.

  • The largest category of operations was beef cattle with 619,172 or 29% of all farms and ranches in 2012 specializing in cattle.

You can find most of the Census here. National and state data on specialty crops will be released in December.

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