USDA Releases Agricultural Census Data

The final results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture are in.

The United States Department of Agriculture released the finalized data during a webcast on Friday, outlining main themes in the census findings. The webcast included an opportunity for viewers to submit questions after the findings were presented and featured Joseph Reilly, National Agricultural Statistics Service acting administrator, and Hubert Hamer, National Agricultural Statistics Service statistics division director.

While preliminary census results were released in February, the updated results include statistics on operator demographics, agriculture production and farm economics. The updated information includes national, state and county data, increasing the scope of preliminary data.

National highlights from the census include: 22 percent of all farmers were beginning farmers in 2012; 969,672 farm operators were female and contributed 30 percent of all farm operators in the U.S.; 70 percent of all farms in the U.S. had Internet access in 2012, up from 56.5 percent in 2007; roughly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers; total organic product sales by farms have increased by 82 percent since 2007, from $1.76 billion in 2007 to $3.1 billion in 2012; and organic products were a $35 billion industry in the United States in 2013.

“Once every five years, farmers, ranchers and growers have the unique opportunity to let the world know how U.S. agriculture is changing, what is staying the same, what’s working and what we can do differently,” said Dr. Cynthia Clark, the retiring head of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. “Today, we can start to delve into the details.”

In time, state and county statistics will be further analyzed.

Based on census data, other national statistics include: U.S. producers sold $394.6 billion worth of products in 2012, with production costs upward of $328.9 billion; 87 percent of all U.S. farms are operated by families or individuals, with an average operator age of 58.3; corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres for the first time; 57,299 farms produced on-farm renewable energy, more than twice the number in 2007; and the largest category of operations was beef cattle, with 29 percent of all farms and ranches in 2012 specializing in cattle.

“The census results reiterate the continued need for policies that help grow the rural economy from the middle out,” said Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture. “The data illustrate the power of USDA efforts to grow the economy and strengthen infrastructure in rural America, create new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers and provide access to capital, credit and disaster assistance for producers of all sizes. The census also shows the potential for continued growth in the bioeconomy, organics and local and regional food systems. USDA will continue to focus on innovative, creative policies that give farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs the tools they need to attract a bright and diverse body of talent to rural America.”