USDA Releases 2017 Ag Census Results

The average American farmer is still getting older, and his net farm income is still declining.

But the number of young farmers is increasing, the value of their production is above average, and the number of farms consisting of nine acres or less is on the rise.

Here are the highlights from the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture.

National

2 million farms, 900 million acres, and 3.4 million producers. That’s a snapshot of the current American agricultural scene.

It is important to note that in the 2017 census, the USDA changed the way some of the questions were asked. The most noteworthy change was redefining producer to refer to anyone involved in making farm decisions.

Key facts from the latest Census of Agriculture include:

  • The number of farms in the U.S. dropped 3.2% to about 2.04 million in 2017.
  • Of America’s 900 million acres in farmland, about 401 million are permanent pasture, 396 million are cropland, 73 million are woodland, and 30 million are used for other purposes.
  • The number of farms consisting of 9 acres or less rose to 273 thousand in 2017 from 224 thousand in 2012, the only acreage category that increased in numbers other than farms consisting of 2,000 or more acres.
  • The average producer is now 57.5 years old, compared to 56.3 in 2012 (partially reflective of terminology changes in the census).
  • The number of female producers has increased by 26.6% since 2012 (primarily reflective of terminology changes in the census).
  • 58% of all farmers have their primary occupation outside of farming.
  • 75% of all farms across the nation have Internet access.
  • In 2017, U.S. farms produced $388.5 billion in agricultural products, down from $394.6 billion in 2012.
  • The largest farms ranked by sales (those selling $5 million or more in agricultural products) accounted for less than 1% of all farms, but over 35% of all sales.
  • Producers under 35 years old had a total value of production of $273,522, compared to $190,245 for all producers.
  • Total U.S. production expenses have decreased 1% since 2012.
  • Total U.S. net farm income has decreased 5% since 2012, despite an 11% increase in government payments.
  • The average net income per farm has decreased 2% to $43,053.

The top 10 states attracting beginning farmers (those with 10 or fewer years of experience) were:

  1. Alaska (46% of total number of producers statewide).
  2. Georgia (33%).
  3. Maine (33%).
  4. Hawaii (32%).
  5. Florida (31%).
  6. Rhode Island (31%).
  7. West Virginia (31%).
  8. New Hampshire (31%).
  9. Colorado (31%).
  10. Vermont (30%).

The top 10 agricultural states by sales were:

  1. California ($45.2 billion).
  2. Iowa ($29.0 billion).
  3. Texas ($24.9 billion).
  4. Nebraska ($22.0 billion).
  5. Kansas ($18.8 billion).
  6. Minnesota ($18.4 billion).
  7. Illinois ($17.0 billion).
  8. North Carolina ($12.9 billion).
  9. Wisconsin ($11.4 billion).
  10. Indiana ($11.1 billion).

The top seven agricultural counties by sales nationwide were all located in California.

The top five commodities nationwide, ranked by sales, were as follows:

  1. Cattle and calves ($77.2 billion; the leading state was Texas).
  2. Corn ($51.2 billion; the leading state was Iowa).
  3. Poultry and eggs ($49.2 billion; the leading state was Georgia).
  4. Soybeans ($40.3 billion; the leading state was Illinois).
  5. Milk ($36.7 billion; the leading state was California).

Kansas

On the Kansas scene, key facts from the census include:

  • The number of farms fell to 58,569 in 2017 from 61,773 in 2012 owning to a decline in numbers of medium-sized farms.
  • Farms of 1 to 9 acres increased to 2,665 in 2017 compared to 1,975 in 2012.
  • Farms of 10 to 49 acres also increased to 10,101 in 2017 from 9,776 in 2012.
  • The average farm increased in size to 781 acres in 2017 from 747 acres in 2012.
  • The estimated market value of land and buildings climbed to an average of about $1.4 million per farm in 2017 from $1.2 million in 2012.

The top five agricultural products in Kansas in 2017, ranked by market value, were:

  1. Cattle and calves (58.1% of total sales).
  2. Grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas (32.3%).
  3. Hogs and pigs (3.8%).
  4. Milk from cows (3.1%).
  5. Other crops and hay (1.4%).

More documents related to the ag census will continue to be released over the next few months and years.

The next census of agriculture will be in 2022.

Helpful Resource

List of Reports and Publications
All the data currently available for the 2017 census, plus release dates for upcoming publications.