Farm Horizons, April 2014

Advances in today’s agriculture industry

By Kent Thiesse
Farm Management Analyst

National Ag Week was celebrated March 23-30 all across the US, as well as in Minnesota, with March 25 being designated as National Ag Day.

As we celebrate National Ag Week, it is a good time to reflect on all the traditions and advancements that help make the US agriculture industry second to none.

Following are some interesting statistics about today’s agriculture industry:

• The 2012 Census of Agriculture listed a total of 2.1 million farms in the US.

Overall, US farm numbers have generally been declining since World War II; however, numbers have been more stable since 1992. Minnesota had a total of 74,537 farms in 2012, which compares to 80,992 farms in 2007.

• From 2007 to 2012, the total number of farms decreased in 34 states, and increased in only 16 states.

There were significant farm number decreases in some midwestern states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin. Minnesota ranked ninth in total farm numbers in 2012, with the top five states being Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, and California.

• The 2012 Ag Census showed that about 1.82 million farms (86 percent) were operated by males, and just over 288,000 farms (14 percent) operated by females.

In 2012, approximately 92 percent of the farm operators in the US were White; however, from 2007 to 2012 there was a 21 percent increase in the number of Hispanic farmers, as well as gains in the number of Black, Asian, and American Indian farm operators.

• There was a total 915 million acres of land in farms in the US in 2012.

This total land in farms declined by less than 1 percent from the 2007 total, which was the third smallest decline between ag census years since 1950. The average US farm size in 2012 was 434 acres, while the average farm size in Minnesota was 349 acres. There are about 26 million acres of land in production in Minnesota, with 6,262 farms being above 1,000 acres.

• In 2012, the average age of US farm operators in 2012 was 58.3 years old.

This compares to 57.1 years old in 2007, and continues a 30-year trend of an increasing average age of US farm operators. The number of farm operators over 65 years old grew significantly from 2007 to 2012, while the number of operators under 35 years old remained steady.

• About 1 million farm operators (48 percent) reported farming as their primary occupation and source of family income in 2012.

This was an increase of about 3 percent from 2007. There were 469,138 US farm operators with under 10 years of experience, and about 172,000 had less than five years on the farm.

• There was a total of $394.6 billion of agricultural sales in the US in 2012, which was at a record level, and was about one-third higher than 2007.

Crop sales in 2012 totaled $212.4 billion, while total livestock sales in 2012 were $182.2 billion.

The year 2012 was the second time in the history of ag census data (since 1840) that total US crop sales have exceeded total livestock sales. The other time was in 1974.

• Minnesota ranked fifth in the US total agricultural sales in 2012.

Minnesota trailed only California, Iowa, Texas, and Nebraska in total ag sales. Minnesota ranked fourth in total crop sales in 2012, behind California, Iowa, and Illinois. Minnesota ranked seventh in total livestock sales, with Texas, Iowa, and California being the leading states.

• The average agricultural sales per farm in the US in 2012 was $187,093.

There were 57,292 farms with total sales above $1 million per year in 2012, which was an increase of 42.5 percent from 2007; however, 1.6 million farms (75 percent) had total sales of less than $50,000 annually. Minnesota had 5,393 farms with total ag sales of $1 million or more in 2012, which is nearly double the number of farms at that level in 2007.

• The US farmer of today produces enough food and fiber for approximately 160 people.

This number was 19 people in 1940, 46 people in 1960, and 115 people in 1980.

• Farmers receive just under 16 cents of every consumer dollar that is spent on food.

The other 84 cents is spent on processing, packaging, marketing, transportation, distribution, and retail costs of the food supply.

• One acre of wheat will yield about 50 bushels per acre and will produce over 2,500 loaves of bread, or over 50 loaves of bread per bushel of wheat.

If a farmer is paid $6.50 per bushel for wheat from the farm, the wheat cost in a loaf of bread is only about 15 cents per loaf (estimated retail value is about $2.69/loaf).

• Following is the farmer’s share of some other common food products and the average prices (estimated retail value as of Feb. 2014, based on United States Department of Agriculture):

Bacon – $.82/lb. ($6.06/lb.); sirloin steak – $2.17/lb. ($7.99/lb.); boneless ham – $.82/lb. ($3.99/lb.); milk – $2/gal. ($4.69/gal.); eggs – $1.10/doz. ($3.09/doz.); breakfast cereal – $.06/box ($4.19/box); potatoes - $.46/5 lbs. ($5.49/five lbs.); tomatoes – $.58/lb. ($2.99/lb.).

Facts listed in this article are from United States Department of Agriculture, National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau, and other sources.

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