New Data Shows Fewer Farms, Richer Farmers

The first batch of data from the Agriculture Census (PDF), a snapshot of American farming released on Thursday, shows that farmers flourished between the last survey in 2007 and 2012, a period that saw crop and livestock values hit record highs.

There were fewer farms in the latest five-year span—the number shows a 4.3 percent drop during the period, continuing a long-term trend—even as the amount of land devoted to farming declined just slightly.

While the average size of farms increased slightly, to 434 acres from 418, the census shows a continuing hollowing out of midsized farms in America. The number of very small farms and very large ones remained constant.

Farmers kept getting older as well, with the average age creeping up to 58.3 years, continuing a trend that stretches back three decades. In such states as Arizona and New Mexico, a farmer’s average age is older than 60.

While 86 percent of farmers are men and 92 percent are white, the number of minority farmers increased, particularly among Hispanics. After a big jump in women farmers from 2002 to 2007, their ranks declined in the latest census.

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