Highlights from the 2017 Census of Agriculture

Posted on 04/11/2019 2:56 PM

USDA today released the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the most complete set of data for American agriculture available. The Census, taken every five years, provides an abundance of information about land use, farm ownership and decision-making, demographics, production practices, income and expenditures.

The census shows a continued rise in the average age of the American farmer to 57.5 years old and and continued consolidation in the industry. One of the most striking data points from today’s release was that more than 56% of all American farms and ranches had a negative net cash farm income in 2017. A USDA press release on the results pulled out the following highlights:

  • There are 2.04 million farms and ranches (down 3.2% from 2012) with an average size of 441 acres (up 1.6%) on 900 million acres (down 1.6%).
  • The 273,000 smallest (1-9 acres) farms make up 0.1% of all farmland while the 85,127 largest (2,000 or more acres) farms make up 58% of farmland.
  • Just 105,453 farms produced 75% of all sales in 2017, down from 119,908 in 2012.
  • Of the 2.04 million farms and ranches, the 76,865 making $1 million or more in 2017 represent just over 2/3 of the $389 billion in total value of production, while the 1.56 million operations making under $50,000 represent just 2.9%.
  • Farm expenses are $326 billion, with feed, livestock purchased, hired labor, fertilizer and cash rents topping the list of farm expenses in 2017.
  • Average farm income is $43,053. A total of 43.6% of farms had positive net cash farm income in 2017.
  • Ninety-six percent of farms and ranches are family-owned.
  • Farms with Internet access rose from 69.6% in 2012 to 75.4% in 2017.
  • A total of 133,176 farms and ranches use renewable energy producing systems, more than double the 57,299 in 2012.
  • In 2017, 130,056 farms sold directly to consumers, with sales of $2.8 billion.
  • Sales to retail outlets, institutions and food hubs by 28,958 operations are valued at $9 billion.

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