The preliminary report of the U.S. Ag Census released this past week might have done little to calm any concerns about the aging farmer — including such worries in Colorado.
The full report, which is released every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and includes in-depth, county-by-county breakdowns of ag production, won’t be released until later in the spring.
However, the USDA did put out a preliminary report this past week, comparing some of its 2012 figures to 2007 numbers. Among the numbers that stood out was the continued growth in the older age brackets for farmers in Colorado and nationwide.
In Colorado, the average age of the farmer increased from 57.0 years old in 2007 up to 58.9 years old in 2012.
Percentage wise, the age group that saw the biggest increase in numbers was farmers 75 years and older, seeing a 15.1 percent jump, from 3,907 farmers in 2007 up to 4,497 in 2012.
Seeing the next biggest percentage increases were the 55 to 64 age group, which saw an upswing of 11.8 percent, from 9,719 farmers in 2007 up to 10,873 farmers in 2012, and the 65 to 74 age group, which saw an increase of 11.6 percent, from 7,017 farmers in 2007 up to 7,829 farmers in 2012.
Seeing the biggest decrease in Colorado was the 45 to 54 age group, which dropped by 24.5 percent, from 10,449 farmers in 2007 down to 7,809 in 2012.
Many agriculture and economics experts have cited the aging farmer and rancher as a source of concern for rural economies.
Nationwide, the recent U.S. Census preliminary report showed the average age of the farmer increased as well, from 57.1 years old in 2007 up to 58.3 years old in 2012. The age group that saw the biggest decrease in the number of farmers was 35 to 44, which dropped by 20.4 percent, from 268,818 farmers to 214,135.
The age group that saw the biggest increase across the U.S. was 65 to 74, seeing a 7.6 percent increase, from 412,182 farmers in 2007 up to 443,558 in 2012.
Farmers 75 years and older increased nationwide by 5.8 percent, from 243,472 in 2007 up to 257,697 in 2012.
In other categories:
Farm And Land
» The number of farms decreased by about 2.4 percent, from 37,054 farms in 2007 to 36,180 in 2012.
» However, the total amount of land in farms increased slightly, by less than 1 percent, from 31.6 million acres in 2007 up to 31.9 million in 2012.
» The average size of the farm increased by 3.4 percent, from 853 acres in 2007 up to 881 in 2012.
» Across the United States, the number of farms decreased by 4.3 percent, from about 2.2 million farms in 2007 down to about 2.1 million in 2012.
» The total acres in farms and ranches decreased by less than 1 percent, from about 922.1 million acres in 2007 down to about 914.6 million acres in 2012.
» The average size of the U.S. farm increased by about 3.8 percent, from 418 acres in 2007 up to 434 acres in 2012.
Value of Goods
» Largely because of an increase in crop prices, the total market value of agricultural products sold, combined with government payments to farmers, saw a 28.3 percent increase, from about $6.1 billion in 2007 up to $7.8 billion in 2012.
» The average market value of ag products sold and government payments per farm increased 31.4 percent, from $163,576 in 2007 to $214,957 in 2012.
» The value of all crops sold jumped nearly 22.9 percent, from $1.98 billion in 2007 up to $2.43 billion in 2012.
» The value of livestock sold jumped nearly 31 percent, from nearly $4.1 billion in 2007 up to $5.34 billion in 2012.
» The total market value of agricultural products sold, combined with government payments to farmers, saw a 32.8 percent increase, from $297.2 billion in 2007 to $394.6 billion in 2012.
» The average market value of ag products sold and government payments per U.S. farm increased 38.8 percent, from taking in $134,807 in 2007 to taking in $187,093 in 2012.
» The value of crops sold jumped nearly 48 percent, from $143.7 billion in 2007 up to $212.4 billion in 2012.
» The value of livestock sold jumped 18.7 percent, from $153.6 billion in 2007 up to $182.2 billion in 2012. In 2012, crop sales exceeded livestock sales for only the second time in Census history; the other time was 1974.
» Government payments to farmers increased by about 6.2 percent, from about $156 million in 2007 up to $165.6 million in 2012.
» Government payments to farmers increased by less than 1 percent, from $7.98 billion in 2007 up to $8.05 billion in 2012.
Economic Class of Farms
» Because of increases in price for a number of commodities and increases in land values, the number of farms in the “$1 million and up” economic class saw the biggest increase in numbers, jumping by 25.4 percent, from 765 farms in that class in 2007 to 959 farms in 2012.
» The number of farms in the $1 million and up economic class experienced the biggest increase in numbers, jumping by 42.4 percent, from 57,292 farms in 2007 up to 81,634 farms in 2007.
Wyoming Farm Income Sees Record Increases
Increase in farm and ranch income is always welcome news for producers, but the extent of that increase may have come as a surprise for producers in Wyoming.
The newly released preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture results show that the value of products sold from crops in Wyoming sharply increased. In 2012, the value of Wyoming agricultural products sold totaled $1.69 billion dollars, up 46 percent ($533 million) from 2007. Both livestock sales, up 33 percent, and crop sales, up 105 percent, increased significantly from 2007.
“Wyoming had the largest percentage increase in income for crops, and the livestock sales went up significantly as well. There was a severe drought during part of that time, and so the prices for crops were much higher and anyone who had them could sell them at a high price. Cattle prices were also much higher,” said Rhonda Brandt, Wyoming state statistician.
The total number of Wyoming farms and ranches increased between 2007 and 2012, contrary to the decline at the national level and in many other states. In 2012, there were 11,742 farms and ranches reported in Wyoming, up 6 percent from 11,069 farms and ranches in 2007.
“It’s a constant trend. Most of the increases are in the Western U.S.,” she said. “It’s a dry area, and so you need more acres per head of cattle and more acres of farm ground to sustain to the level of the area that you would need elsewhere. It’s a big state with few people,”
The amount of land in Wyoming farms and ranches increased by 0.6 percent between 2007 and 2012, contrary to the trend at the national level and in many other states.
In Wyoming, there were 30,363,938 acres of land in farms and ranches in 2012 compared with 30,169,526 acres in 2007.
“Once again, Wyoming ranks first among all 50 states with the highest average farm size at 2,586 acres per farm. The national average farm size is 434 acres,” said Brant.
Following the national trend, Wyoming did see an increase in their farm operator age from 57.1 years old to 58.2 years old.
“Just like the rest of the population, the age of all business people are going up. The older generations are not retiring like they used to. We did see an increase in all age groups in Wyoming. Wyoming was one of the states that saw significant increases in the under 35 years of age category. It does look like Wyoming is getting some young farmers involved in the industry, which is contrary to the national level,“ stated Brant.
Census numbers are used in many different ways.
“One of the most important takeaways to remember about the Census of Agriculture is that the information is used for decision-making by producers, as well as all those who serve farmers, ranchers and rural communities — federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations and many others,” said Brandt. “When we look at the data for our state, we can all use it as a snapshot in time to see how Wyoming agriculture is changing over time and how it compared to the rest of the country.”
Nationally, the 2012 Census reported that between 2007 and 2012, per farm average value of sales increased from $134,807 to $187,093, continuing a steady 30-year upward trend. The increase of $52,286 was the largest rise in Census history.
Among other things, the 2012 Census also accounted for more minority-operated farms in 2012 than in 2007.
“The release of the preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture results is only a first look at the data and we are eager to publish the final report this May,” said NASS administrator Cynthia Clark. “The 2012 Census was not conducted in a typical crop year, and drought had a major impact on U.S. agriculture, affecting crop yields, production and prices. NASS is still reviewing all 2012 Census items to the county level and therefore data are preliminary until published in the final report.”
For more information about the Census — including access to current 2012 Census of Agriculture preliminary report, additional materials and full final report when it is released in May — visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.
Statement From Vilsack On The 2012 Census Of Agriculture Preliminary Results
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement on the 2012 Census of Agriculture preliminary results:
“The preliminary data released today provide a snapshot of a strong rural America that has remained stable during difficult economic times.
We have slowed significantly the loss of farmland, which has totaled 72 million acres since 1982. New tools provided in the 2014 Farm Bill will help to further slow and reverse this trend.
The data confirm that farm income is at a record high. However, the prolonged drought and lack of disaster assistance have made it more difficult for livestock producers and mid-sized farms to survive. The 2014 Farm Bill guarantees disaster assistance and provides additional stability for farmers and ranchers.
A bright spot in the data is the slight increase in young farmers and the stable number of small farms and large-scale farms. This reflects our work to grow both local and regional food systems and exports, but we must do more for mid-sized operations. The 2014 Farm Bill will expand support for beginning farmers and new market opportunities for all producers.
Finally, the data illustrate the strength of diversity in crop production, markets, people and land use across the agricultural sector. While the aging nature of the farming population is a concern, we are hopeful that as we attract and retain the next generation of talent into rural America, this trend can also be reversed.”