#213. USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture – Part I

Posted on | The Agurban

USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture – Part I

In BoomtownUSA we foresaw a movement of Americans to rural communities and farms primarily because of quality of life issues. Who wanted to be caught in one hour traffic jams five days a week?

The latest USDA Census of Agriculture, done every five years, has confirmed the trend that we saw, with the first real increase in the number of farms in USA in the last 30 years (and probably longer if they had included the data in this census).  Americans are moving to smaller lifestyle and retirement farms at a faster pace than at anytime in the history of the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently released their 2007 Census of Agriculture. This census is a complete count of the nation’s farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The 2007 Census was released in three reports: farm numbers, operator demographics, and economic aspects. We will touch on the highlights of each report over the next three weeks.

This week we will hit on the Farm Numbers report. First of all, a farm is defined as “as place from which $1000 or more of agricultural products were, or normally would be, produced and sold during the Census year.” According to the 2007 Census, the number of farms increased 4 percent from the 2002 Census, to 2,204,792 farms. The number of farms nationwide has been on a declining trend since World War II, but the 2007 figure indicates a leveling of this trend.

Most of the growth in U.S. farm numbers came from small operations, where sales of no specific commodity accounted for more than 50 percent of the total value of production. Farms that began operations between 2003 and 2007 tended to be smaller and have lower sales than all farms nationwide. In addition, operators of new farms were more likely to be engaged in occupations other than farming and to derive income from non-farm sources.

The 2007 Census shows that the two largest groups of farms are residential/lifestyle farms (36 percent) and retirement farms (21 percent). These farms produce less than $250,000 in sales. On the other hand, large family farms (sales between $250,000 and $500,000) and very large family farms (sales over $500,000) made up only 9 percent of all farms. Yet they produced more than 63 percent of the value of all agricultural products sold.

Next week, we will discuss farm demographics.

For the complete reports, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.