Every five years, the Census of Agriculture is conducted, giving us an overview of farming in the United States. The 2022 report was released this week, and while some of the statistics were disheartening but expected, there were bright spots as well.

Not surprisingly, the number of farms and amount of farmland declined since the 2017 census. In this case, a farm is classified as any operation that sells at least $1,000 of goods annually, and in 2022, there were 1.9 million farms and ranches across the United States. That was down 7% from 2017. There were 880 million acres of farmland, down 2% from five years earlier.

In the last five years, farms have gotten bigger. The average farm size was 463 acres, up 5% from 2017. Nearly all these farms and ranches, 95%, were family-owned and operated. These family-owned farms managed 84% of the farmland.

The average age of all farmers was 58.1, which was up 0.6 years from the last census. The good news is that this rise in average age was smaller than the jump between previous censuses. Also in the good news category is the fact that there were 11% more beginning farmers in 2022 compared to 2017. These farmers have 10 or fewer years of experience, with an average age of 47.1 years old. Overall, the number of producers under 35 years old totaled 296,480 and represented 9% of all producers.

As for female operators, there were 1.2 million in the recent census, which was 36% of all producers. More than half of the farms, 58%, had at least one female decision maker.

With sustainability being such a buzzword these days, there was a 15% climb in the number of farms and ranches using renewable energy producing systems. Solar panels were the most popular option, utilized by 76% of the farms that reported they were using renewable energy.

On the dairy side, there were 24,082 operations with off-farm milk sales in 2022. That was down from 39,303 dairy farms in 2017. The number of milk cows recorded was 9.3 million, compared to 9.5 million documented in the last census.

Facts like this and much more can be found in the 2022 Census of Agriculture report. We could call this a snapshot of agriculture, but it is really much more than that, as more than 6 million data points were collected directly from producers. If you’d like to dig into the information, the entire report is available at on.hoards.com/agcensus.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
February 15, 2024
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