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The State of U.S. Agriculture: Highlights from the 2012 USDA Census

Post written by: Pat Ploucha


Earlier this year, with limited fanfare, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2012 Census of Agriculture. This census provides a comprehensive summary of agricultural activity within the U.S.

The results provide an extremely detailed look at the farming sector and information regarding industry trends, including: the size and type of farms; values of livestock and crops; characteristics of operators; and  much more.

The census is conducted every five years and amazingly provides more than six million pieces of information. The census data is collected through a variety of methods including face to face interviews, mail questionnaires, online surveys and telephone interviews.

Below are key highlights from the 2012 Census, including some of the most interesting insights into the Agriculture Sector.

  • There were a total of 2.1 million farms throughout the U.S. in 2012; that number was down approximately 4 percent from the 2007 census results.
  • The survey showed farms in the U.S. sold $395 billion in products in 2012 (the most ever); these results were up substantially from 2007.
  • The 10 states with the most farms, according to the survey, were Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, California, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Incidentally, Ohio was not included in the top 10 list in the 2007 census.
  • The top five states from an agriculture sales perspective were California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska and Minnesota.
  • Most U.S. farms were considered small in 2012, as 75 percent of all farms had sales less than $50,000.
  • A majority of U.S. farms, 87 percent, were operated by individuals or families.
  • The average age of farm principal operators continued to increase; the average age was 58.3, and one third of farm principal operators were older than 65 in 2012.
  • Farms with Internet access increased to approximately 70 percent, a significant increase from the 56.5 percent detailed in the 2007 census results.

For anyone interested in gaining a greater knowledge about U.S. agriculture, I would highly recommend visiting Despite the massive amount of data, I found the site to be user friendly and easy to navigate. The information can be extremely useful for those involved in any phase of the agricultural sector.

Image credit: Flickr via keeva999

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