The results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, including new data about on-farm decision making, down to the county level is now available providing data on farms, market value of agricultural products sold, rankings of selected commodities and producer and farm characteristics.
Information collected by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) directly from farmers tells both farm numbers and land in farms have ongoing small percentage declines since the last Census in 2012.
At the same time, there continue to be more of the largest and smallest operations and fewer middle-sized farms. The average age of all farmers and ranchers continues to rise.
The Census tells the story of how agriculture is changing and provides valuable insights into demographics, economics, land and activities on farms.
Some key highlights include:
• There are 2.04 million farms (down 3.2 percent from 2012) with an average size of 441 acres (up 1.6 percent) on 900 million acres (down 1.6 percent).
• In Halifax County, there are 895 farms (down 4 percent from 2012) with an average size of 233 acres (up 3 percent) on 208,967 acres (down 1 percent).
• The 273,000 smallest (1-9 acres) farms make up 0.1 percent of all farmland, while the 85,127 largest (2,000 or more acres) farms make up 58 percent of farmland.
• In Halifax County, the 36 smallest (1-9 acres) farms make up 4 percent of farmland. The 158 farms of 10 to 49 acres make up 18 percent, while the 412 farms of 50 to 179 acres make up 46 percent. Farms from 180 to 499 acres total 200 and make up 22 percent, and the 61 larger 500 to 999 acre farms make up 7 percent. The 28 largest farms of 1,000 plus acres make up 3 percent.
• Just 105,453 farms produced 75 percent of all sales in 2017, down from 119,908 in 2012.
• Of the 2.04 million farms, 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 percent.
• Farm expenses are $326 billion with feed, livestock purchased, hired labor, fertilizer and cash rents topping the list of farm expenses in 2017.
• In Halifax County, farm expenses totaled $35,379,000 in 2017, and farm-related income amounted to $5,720,000.
• Average farm income is $43,053. A total of 43.6 percent of farms had positive net cash farm income in 2017.
• In Halifax County, farm-related income was $19,004 netting a positive cash farm income of $2,959.
• Some 96 percent of farms are family owned nationwide.
• In Halifax County, 97 percent are family farms with 28 hiring farm labor, three selling directly to consumers, one farming organically and 67 having access to internet.
• Farms with internet access rose from 69.6 percent in 2012 to 75.4 percent 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.
• For the 2017 Census of Agriculture, NASS changed the demographic questions to better represent the roles of all persons involved in on-farm decision making.
As a result, in 2017 the number of producers is up by nearly 7 percent to 3.4 million, because more farms reported multiple producers. Most of these newly identified producers are female. While the number of male producers fell 1.7 percent to 2.17 million from 2012 to 2017, the number of female producers increased by nearly 27 percent to 1.23 million. This change underscores the effectiveness of the questionnaire changes.
Other demographic highlights include:
• The average age of all producers is 57.5, up 1.2 years from 2012.
• The number of producers who have served in the military is 370,619, or 11 percent of all. They are older than the average at 67.9.
• In Halifax County, 190 farmers have had military service.
• There are 321,261 young producers age 35 or less on 240,141 farms. Farms with young producers making decisions tend to be larger than average in both acres and sales.
• In Halifax County, 97 farmers are under age 35; 735 are between the ages of 35 and 64; and 559 are 65 and older.
• More than any other age group, young producers make decisions regarding livestock, though the difference is slight.
• One in four producers is a beginning farmer with 10 or fewer years of experience and an average age of 46.3. Farms with new or beginning producers making decisions tend to be smaller than average in both acres and value of production.
• Halifax County has 362 new and beginning farmers.
• A total of 36 percent of all producers are female and 56 percent of all farms have at least one female decision maker. Farms with female producers making decisions tend to be smaller than average in both acres and value of production.
• In Halifax County, 471 are female, and 920 are male.
• Female producers are most heavily engaged in the day-to-day decisions along with record keeping and financial management.
The Census tells the story of American agriculture and is an important part of history. First conducted in 1840 in conjunction with the decennial Census, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.
After 1920, the Census happened every four to five years. By 1982, it was regularly conducted once every five years.
Today, NASS sends questionnaires to nearly 3 million potential U.S. farms and ranches. Nearly 25 percent of those who responded did so online. Conducted since 1997 by USDA NASS — the federal statistical agency responsible for producing official data about U.S. agriculture — it remains the only source of comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation and is invaluable for planning the future.