The 2018 U.S. Census of Agriculture is still reveling some interesting statistics that indicate that farm sizes are growing and that over all farm numbers have declined since the 2012 census by over 3%. According the census, there are 2,042,220 farms and ranches in the United States that utilize just over 900 million acres of land. About 243 million of these acres are dedicated to oilseed and grain production, while cattle operations and dairy farms use 405 million acres, and farms producing fruits, vegetable and nursery crops account for just 27 million acres of farmland the rest of the acres are used for forage production, cotton, and a variety of minor crops. The top five states ranked according to the number of farms and ranches include Ohio at number 5, with almost 88,000 farms, Oklahoma is number 4, Iowa is number 3, Missouri is in second place, and maybe you guessed it, Texas is number one with well over a quarter of a million farms and ranches.
As 2019 winds down, many farmers and ranchers will be glad to look at the year in their rear view mirror. Weather, wet or dry fields, low crop, beef and pork prices, trade wars and increasing production costs have all dogged producers this year. But out of all of this cayuse, farmers are finding out that late planting dates and wet fields haven’t resulted in terrible yields. Just as crop yields have continued to increase because of improved genetics, so has the ability of these crops to produce acceptable yields in spite of the poor growing conditions seen in much of the country this year.
Apple growers are projected to harvest 10.6 billion pounds of fruit this marketing year, up 4 percent over 2018. A large apple crop in California and Washington made up for diminished harvests in eastern states, including flat or smaller production in Michigan, New York and Virginia, according to the USDA Economic Research Service.
In the future, will we see more fish served for Christmas dinner? A new Department of Agriculture report states that the sales of aquaculture products passed $1.5 billion in 2018, a 10 percent increase over the last five years even though the number of operations decreased by 5 percent. The USDA reported that there were more than 2,900 aquaculture farms in operation last year, including 522 in Louisiana and 325 in Florida, the most of any states. However, Mississippi and Washington sold the most aquacultural products, which included farmed fish, algae and sea vegetables. Catfish and oysters were the most commonly farmed species and accounted for over 650 million dollars in sales.
Since this is the day before Christmas, I’ve got to mention something about Christmas trees. According to the USDA, there were 10,000 farms cutting Christmas trees in 2017, but that number is down from about 12,000 in 2012. The number of harvested trees fell from 17.3 million to 15.1 million over that period. While some folks worry that cutting trees for Christmas is bad for the environment, studies have shown that there isn’t much difference between the environmental impact of real Christmas trees versus artificial trees, unless you keep the moth-eaten artificial tree for a long time.
American author and CBS news journalist Eric Sevareid said, “Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”