Today the USDA released the 2002 Census of Agriculture, the most comprehensive source of statistics portraying the nation's agriculture. Overall, farms continue to get bigger and 3% of the farms account for 62% of the agricultural sales and government payments according to the Census data.
Information from the census of agriculture is used daily across America in all types of agricultural planning and decision-making. A farm or ranch is defined as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the reference year.
Since 1974, the number of farms and ranches have fallen from 2.62 million to 2.13 million farms in 2002. The greatest number of farms fall in the 50-179 acre category with a total of 659,000 farms. This number is down from 1997 when the total reached 694,000 farms. In 2002, 78,000 farms were in the category of 2,000 or more acres.
The average farm is 447 acres; the total value of sales and government payments is $97,320; and the net cash farm income is $19,032. The average age of the principal operator is 55.3, who has worked an average of 20.7 years on the present farm.
Land values are also up for 2002. The estimated value of land and buildings was over $900 billion in 1997. However, in 2002 the value reached $1.14 trillion. That comes to around $537,833 per farm in 2002. The average cost per acre rose from $967 in 1997 to $1,213 in 2002.
The distribution of farms by economic class shows that 3% of the total number of farms make $500,000 or more per year. This class accounts for 62% of the total value of sales and government payments. On the other end, 35% of farms fit into the less than $2,500 class representing only 1% of sales and government payments.
There is a plenty of new information provided in the 2002 Census that hasn't been published in the past. For instance you can find total irrigated acres from which dry hay, haylage, grass silage, or greenchop was cut or harvested, or the acres covered under a Federal or other crop insurance policy. Hog producers can find the type of operation and producer in their county.
In addition, the amount (dollars) received for participation in other Federal farm programs" was added to the report form. (In the 1997 Census of Agriculture, this item was derivable from information provided by respondents.) The Census also tells the number of households that share in the net farm income derived from the operation, and what percent of principal operatorâ€™s total household income came from "this operation". Even the number of farmers who have access to Internet or whether the individual uses computers for the farm business is recorded.
For more information or to see you county's statistics, click HERE.