Good Morning! This is Bob Bragg with the April 16th edition of Farm News and Views.
Results of the 2017 USDA Agricultural Census was released on Thursday last week. The Census is gathered every five years, targeting farmers and ranchers who file a Farm Schedule F as part of their federal income Tax returns. The Census provides a broad overview of agricultural production in the U.S., which is also broken down to the state and county levels. The information in this report is often used to spot trends and to provide information for setting agricultural policies over the next five years.
While there is a lot if interesting information in the report, I’ll not dump the whole load at once. A significant statistic is that since 1987, the average age of farm operators continued to climb, but the 2017 Census indicates that farming and ranching is attracting younger operators, and, that the disparity between the number of men versus the number of and women farm operators is becoming more balanced. The average age for principal producers in 2017 was 58.6 years old, almost the same as it was in 2012. The number of male farm and ranch operators decreased slightly to 2.17 million, and the number of female operators climbed by about 20,000 to 1.23 million. Still, the number of farms has declined by over 67,000 farms since 2012, dropping to 2.04 million farms, a decline of 3.2%. This decline affected mostly middle sized farms that were consolidated or taken over by larger farm operations, which showed and increase in numbers since 21012. The number of small farms of from 1 to 9 acres also increased, and the report showed that one in four producers is a beginning farmer, who are classified as someone with 10 or fewer years of experience. The average age of this group was 46.3 years old.
For the first time, the 2017 census quantified direct-to-consumer sales, such as at farmers markets, Those sales totaled $2.8 billion dollars.
But on the down side is that there is a Lack of racial diversity in agricultural producers. More than 95 percent of producers are white; 3 percent are Hispanic; and 1.7 percent are Native Americans or Native Alaskans, African-Americans accounted for 1.3 percent of producers, while Asian-Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders each accounted for less than 1 percent.
I’ll present some more localized statistics gleaned from the 2017 census report next week.
Interest in growing Industrial hemp in the Four Corners region has intensified with the signing of the 2018 farm bill, which legalized hemp production. Proponents of hemp see it as a game changer for U.S. agriculture, although markets are still a bit uncertain, while others see it as just another potential crop for farmers. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue recently indicated that it is likely to be 2020 before the USDA produces the regulatory framework for hemp. He stated that the USDA wanted to proceed slowly, to preclude a land rush that could blow out a market before it could get started. This crop year, growers will still grow hemp under the regulations that were laid out in the 2014 Farm Bill. Kentucky is the leader in hemp production, with 42,100 acres and 2.9 million square feet of greenhouse space alloted for production of the crop. Last year, about 24 states allowed hemp production, and another 17 states are enacting legislation to permit it’s production this year.
Todays thought comes from Poet Robert Frost. “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.”
Until next week.. I’m Bob Bragg