Experts weigh in on latest Ag Census

According to the new data, US farmers continue to get older. The average age of all farmers (or “producers” in the Census) went up from 56.3 to 57.5 years, and the average age of “primary producers” increased from 58.3 to 59.4 years. Furthermore, most farmers are still overwhelmingly white (95.4 percent) and male (64 percent).

However, the number of female farmers reported increased by 27 percent since 2012, whereas the number of male farmers reported declined by 2 percent. Note that this result reflects the effectiveness of the USDA’s changes to demographic questions, which allowed farms to list more than one producer engaged in farm decision-making.

Thanks to new categories of data collection, we now know that 11 percent of farmers have a military background (i.e., currently or previously served on active duty in the US Armed Forces), and 17 percent of all farms include a farmer who has served in the military. We also now know more about farm decision-making than previous results were able to track. For example, female farmers are most involved with day-to-day decisions, record keeping, and financial management. Young farmers are more likely than older farmers to make decisions related to livestock.

https://blog.ucsusa.org/marcia-delonge/key-questions-answered-in-the-usdas-new-census-of-agriculture

 

According to the newly released 2017 Census of Agriculture from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there were over 321,000 young farmers (under the age of 35) in the U.S. That count is up from 2012, when there were 208,000.

While that might sound like a sizable leap, the numbers are complicated by the fact that the USDA only recently began allowing farms to list more than one “operator”—meaning children of farm owners can now be listed along with their parents. Since over 100,000 of those young farmers—nearly the entire difference—are part-owners or tenants of the farm, the overall percentage is only up by 2 percent, from 7.6 to 9.4 percent of total farmers.

2017 Ag Census Reveals Some Bright Spots Despite Increased Farm Consolidation

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Report shows that direct farm sales increase local economies in many regions

(talk about needing more research like this!)

Using county-level data from the 2002 and 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, the team analyzed the link between direct farm sales — sales made directly from farmer to consumer — and total farm sales. When they examined the data on a national basis, they found a positive but not statistically significant relationship between the two. Goetz said that a different picture emerged when they looked at the data by region, as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In some regions, direct sales seemed to complement total farm sales. For example, in New England, a $1 increase from the 2002 level of direct farm sales was associated with a $5 increase in total farm sales. That same $1 increase was associated with a $9 increase in overall farm sales in the Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Yet, in other regions, local food sales appear to compete with total farm sales. In Southeastern U.S. counties, for example, direct sales were associated with a reduction in total farm sales. Next, to measure the impact of all agricultural sales on economic growth, the researchers used a statistical model to analyze how changes in farm sales per capita influenced changes in real personal income per capita — an indicator of economic growth. Again, the team performed this analysis using county-level data from 2002 to 2007.
Goetz said that by establishing that direct sales have a positive effect on total agricultural sales, which in turn have an effect on income growth, this study demonstrates that direct sales do indeed expand local economies at least in the Northeast U.S. He added that these results came as a bit of a surprise.
“When we set out to measure the economic impact of local food sales, we frankly didn’t expect to find one,” said Goetz. He explained that economists are generally skeptical that local sales can have impacts because such sales tend to recirculate money within a community rather than inject new money. “Injection of new money — money from outside of the community — is what many economic development practitioners think of as the fuel for economic growth. But to me, these findings provide quite robust evidence that even direct sales do have an effect on growth, in the Northeast U.S.”

Science Daily