Census shows new farming trends

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The USDA released a portion of the national and state 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture data on Feb. 20, with the remaining data (including county-level data) due in May.

The preliminary data reveals the following:

United States

• The number of U.S. farms (still defined as $1,000 or more of sales) totals $2.1 million, down 4.3 percent from the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

• The average U.S. farm size increased from 418 acres in 2007 acres to 434 acres in 2012.

• The average U.S. farm market value of U.S. crops and livestock sold was up nearly 40 percent compared to 2007.

• The average age of the U.S. farmer was 58.3 years, up 1.2 years since 2007.

• The number of beginning farmers (less than 10 years of farming) was down almost 20 percent since the 2007 Census.


• The number of farms in Kentucky totaled 77,064, down nearly 10 percent from the 85,260 farms reported in the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

• Kentucky’s ranking fell from fourth to sixth in terms of the largest number of farms among U.S. states.

• The average Kentucky farm was 169 acres in 2012 compared to 164 acres in 2007.

• The only farm size category to increase from the last census was the number of farms totaling more than 1,000 acres, which totaled 1,928 Kentucky farms in 2012 compared to 1,745 farms in 2007.

• The average market value of crops and livestock sold by Kentucky farms was $65,755 in 2012, up 16 percent compared to 2007.

• 86 percent of Kentucky farms had less than $50,000 of sales in 2012, with 1,837 farms having sales exceeding $1 million.

• The average age of the principle operator for Kentucky farms was 57.6 years, with only the 65 and older categories increasing.

• The number of female operators totaled 8,100, compared to 9,110 in 2007.

• The number of beginning farmers (less than 10 years of farming) totaled 17,257, down 24 percent since the 2007 Census.

Farming outlook

The USDA Chief Economist also released information about the U.S. Farm Economy Outlook for 2014.  Some highlights are as follows:

• Global consumption of grains/oilseeds continues to grow in order to accommodate increasing global production.

• U.S. agricultural exports are expected to increase to a record $142.6 billion in fiscal year 2014. This is in response to higher export volumes more than offsetting lower prices.

• China continues to account for a larger percentage of U.S. agricultural trade. China is now our number one agriculture export customer.

• U.S. corn use for ethanol will increase modestly in the near future, in response to higher blends of corn-based ethanol in the domestic market and additional ethanol exports.

• The ethanol industry will purchase around 35 percent of U.S. corn production for the foreseeable future, down from more than 40 percent in recent years, with about a third of this corn transferred back to U.S. agriculture in the form of distiller’s dried grain used for livestock feed.

• Despite increasing global grain production, global grain stocks remain relatively tight and, consequently, could result in noticeable up-side pressure on prices if significant supply shocks occur in major grain producing areas.

• Lower anticipated prices will cause U.S. crop acres to decline modestly (-0.9 percent) in 2014: U.S. corn acres (-3.5 percent), U.S. soybean acres (+3.9 percent), wheat (-1.2 percent).

• USDA projects the following crop prices for crop year 2014/15: corn ($3.90/bushel), soybeans ($9.65/bushel), and wheat ($5.30/bushel).

• Livestock remains the positive outlook for U.S. agriculture amidst tight supplies (e.g., cattle/calf numbers lowest since 1951), improved feed/price ratios, and expanding meat exports.

• Livestock prices are expected to remain near or above record high levels; steers ($1.36/lb, +8 percent), hogs (63 cents/lb, -2 percent), broilers (97.5 cents/lb, -2.2 percent), and milk ($21.20/cwt, +6 percent).

• Food price inflation is expected to be 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent, which will be greater than the overall inflation rate.

For more information, please contact the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 732-7030.

Dates of interest

April 17:Master Stocker, session six of eight:  Environmental Compliance and Best Management Practices, 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.


Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.