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Census shows change in agricultural production

SUN Columnist

Last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national Agricultural Statistics Service released the final 2012 Census of Agriculture results, sharing a wide range of information about what agricultural products were raised in the United State, and where, how and by whom they were grown. The data, which is reported at the national, state and county level, will help farmers, ranchers, local officials, agribusiness and others make decisions for the future.

The agriculture census presents more than 6 million pieces of information, which provide a detailed look at the U.S. farm sector. The census provides valuable insight into U.S. farmer demographics, economics and production practices.

Archuleta County census data shows an increase in agricultural production:

• The number of acres devoted to farmland in Archuleta County increased from 149,584 acres in 2007 to 210,194 acres in 2012 for an increase of 40.5 percent, while the number of farms increased by only 21.5 percent over the same period.

• The number of irrigated acres in Archuleta County increased from 14,542 acres in 2007 to 24,234 acres in 2012 for an increase of 66.6 percent

• The market value of agricultural products sold increased by 109.7 percent from $7,389,000 in 2007 to $15,495,000 in 2012. The value of livestock, poultry and their products increased by 113 percent and the value of crops including nursery and greenhouse crops increased by 78.8 percent.

• The number of principal operators in farming increased by 82.7 percent from 110 in 2007 to 201 in 2012, while the number of principals in other industries decreased by 12.8 percent from 196 to 171.

Following are State of Colorado key findings as summarized in the CSU Extension May Local Food Systems Newsletter:

• There are now 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States. For Colorado, there are 36,180 farms, down from 37,054 in 2007. Colorado farms and ranches reported an average size of 881 acres (up from 853), but a median size of 90 acres (so, a very large number of fairly small acreages).

• Both sales and production expenses reached record highs in 2012. U.S. producers sold $394.6 billion worth of agricultural products, and Colorado accounted for $7.78 billion of those sales, up from $6.06 billion in 2007.

• In the U.S., three-quarters of all farms had sales of less than $50,000, producing only 3 percent of the total value of farm products sold, while those with sales of more than $1 million — 4 percent of all farms — produced 66 percent.

• In Colorado, there was growth in the mid-size farm category, with 3,808 farms and ranches reporting between $100,000 and $500,000 in sales, up from 3,595 farms in 2007. Those mid-size farms accounted for almost $900 million in sales (11.5 percent of all sales), and this is a significant jump from $829,000 in 2007.

• Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased 11.3 percent from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012. In Colorado, 6,833 (19 percent) farmers have farmed 10 years or less. Over 5 percent of Colorado farmers are 35 or younger, compared to 3.7 percent nationally.

• California led the nation with nine of the 10 top counties for value of sales. Fresno County was No. 1 in the United States with nearly $5 billion in sales in 2012, which is greater than that of 23 states. Weld County, Colo. ranked among ninth in the top 10 U.S. counties.

• In the U.S., 144,530 farm operators reported selling products directly to consumers. In 2012, these sales totaled more than $1.3 billion (up 8.1 percent from 2007). In Colorado, 2,896 producers sold $19.2 million, down from $22.6 million in 2007. Although this may be surprising, the number of operations reporting revenues related to agritourism, sales direct to retailers and community-supported agriculture is growing. This may suggest a diversification of income streams.

• Organic sales have grown, but accounted for just 0.8 percent of the total value of U.S. agricultural production. Organic farmers reported $3.12 billion in sales in 2012, up from $1.7 billion in 2007. In Colorado, 176 farms reported $68.2 million in sales, up from $50.6 million in 2007.

For access to the complete data series and tools to analyze this information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.

This story was posted on June 5, 2014.