USDA releases preliminary data from 2012 Census of Agriculture

By Erin Voegele | February 24, 2014

Every five years, the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service performs a Census of Agriculture. The census provides statistics on farms, agricultural land, product value, farmers and a range of other factors. Data gathered through the effort provides the agricultural community, government representatives, public and private sector analysts, educators and others with access to high-quality statistics. On Feb. 20, the USDA released the 2012 Census Preliminary Report. The full report is scheduled to be released in May.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement noting that the preliminary data provides “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,” Vilsack continued. “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.”

According to the preliminary results, the U.S. had 2.1 million farms in 2012, down 1.3 percent from the prior 2007 agricultural census. The average farm size was 434 acres, 3.8 percent bigger than in 2007. The data shows mid-size farms declined in number from 2007 through 2012, while the number large farms with more than 1,000 acres and very small farms of 1 to 9 acres didn’t change significantly. Overall, the amount of farmland declined, but only slightly. According to the USDA, the amount of land in farms dropped from 922 million acres in 2007 to 915 million acres in 2012. The decline was the third smallest since 1950.

In 2012, the market values of crops, livestock and total agricultural products reached record highs. Crops sales were $68.7 billion, or 48 percent, higher in 2012 than in 2007. In fact, in 2012 the value of crop sales exceeded the value of livestock salsa for the second time in history.

Additional information on the 2012 Census of Agriculture is available on the USDA website.