Ag Census: Iowa Farms Are Bigger, Fewer In Number

Ag Census: Iowa Farms Are Bigger, Fewer In Number

New USDA Census of Agriculture preliminary data provides a snapshot of Iowa agriculture.

USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service last week released the 2012 Census of Agriculture preliminary results providing a first look at state and national data. The final report including data for every county in the nation will be available in May.

The 2012 Census reported little change in land in farms with a substantial increase in value of sales for Iowa producers from 2007 to 2012. The preliminary report included information on farm numbers, land in farms, value of sales, and farmer demographics. Some highlights for Iowa are:

  • The amount of land operated by Iowa farmers declined by less than 1% between 2007 and 2012, from 30.7 million acres to 30.6 million.
  • In 2012, the value of agriculture products sold by Iowa farmers totaled $30.8 billion, up nearly 51% ($10.4 billion) from 2007. Crop sales accounted for $17.4 billion of the total and livestock sales accounted for $13.4 billion, up 68% and 34%, respectively, from 2007. Iowa ranked second nationally for total value of agricultural product sales, crop sales and livestock sales in 2012, with Iowa moving up one position from 2007 for each item.
OLDER FARMERS, BIGGER FARMS: USDA last week released a first look at results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The preliminary report shows Iowa farms are dwindling in number and growing in size, continuing a long-term trend.

Iowa ranks second in U.S. in total value of crops and livestock sold
"This census information is only made possible by the thousands of farmers that completed their census form," says Greg Thessen, director of NASS' Upper Midwest Region that serves Iowa. "The time they spent completing their form was an investment in providing information they can use and that will also be of great value to companies, cooperatives, planners and lawmakers who serve Iowa's farmers and communities including federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations and many others."

"These preliminary results again show the immense scale and economic impact of agriculture on our state's economy and the importance of Iowa agriculture nationally. At more than $30 billion, Iowa is second in total value of ag products sold, both crops and livestock," notes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "The Census of Ag is an important tool that provides great information, so thank you to all the famers who took the time to participate."


Downtrend in number of mid-size farms; small and large farms held steady
Nationally, the 2012 Census of Ag reported little change in land in farms, a more diverse principal operator population and several historic changes in value of sales for U.S. agriculture producers from 2007 to 2012. At the national level:

  • Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of land in farms in the U.S. declined by less than 1%, from 922 million acres to 915 million. While continuing a downward trend, this is the third smallest decline between censuses since 1950.
  • According to the 2012 Census, principal farm operators are becoming older and more diverse. The average age of a principal farm operator was 58.3 years, up 1.2 years since 2007, and continuing a 30-year trend of steady increase.
  • The U.S. had 2.1 million farms in 2012, down 4.3% from 2007. In terms of farm size by acres, the decline continued a downward trend in mid-sized farms, while the smallest- and largest-size farms held steady.
  • In 2012, the value of agriculture products sold totaled $394.6 billion, up 33% ($97.4 billion) from 2007. For only the second time in census history crop sales ($212.4 billion) exceeded livestock sales ($182.2 billion).

Preliminary census results provide snapshot of Iowa agriculture
"The release of the preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture results is only a first look at the data and NASS is eager to publish the final report this May," says NASS administrator Cynthia Clark. "The 2012 Census was not conducted in a typical crop year, and drought had a major impact on U.S. agriculture, affecting crop yields, production and prices. NASS is still reviewing all 2012 Census items to the county level and therefore these data are preliminary until published in the final report."

Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. When available in May, the final report will provide even more detailed information for Iowa and the nation providing data on all farm operators and data down to the county level. The publication will also provide new insights into the agriculture industry reporting new or expanded data on Internet access, regional food systems, biomass production, agro-forestry and equine.

For more information about the census, including access to the 2012 Census of Agriculture preliminary report and the full report when it is released in May, visit the Census of Agriculture online.

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