WASHINGTON, D.C. — Information collected by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service for the 2017 Census of Agriculture released April 11 shows both farm numbers and land in farms have ongoing small percentage declines since the last census in 2012.

At the same time, there continue to be more of the largest and smallest operations and fewer middle-sized farms.

The average age of all farmers and ranchers continues to rise.

“While the current picture shows a consistent trend in the structure of U.S. agriculture, there are some ups and downs since the last census as well as first-time data on topics such as military status and on-farm decision making,” NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer said in a USDA news release.

Farm size

Census data provide insights into demographics, economics, land and activities on U.S. farms and ranches. Some key highlights include:

  • There are 2.04 million farms and ranches (down 3.2 percent from 2012) with an average size of 441 acres (up 1.6 percent) on 900 million acres (down 1.6 percent).
  • The 273,000 smallest (1-9 acres) farms make up 0.1 percent of all farmland while the 85,127 largest (2,000 or more acres) farms make up 58 percent of farmland.
  • Just 105,453 farms produced 75 percent of all sales in 2017, down from 119,908 in 2012.
  • Average farm income is $43,053. A total of 43.6 percent of farms had positive net cash farm income in 2017.
  • Ninety-six percent of farms and ranches are family owned.
  • Farms with Internet access rose from 69.6 percent in 2012 to 75.4 percent in 2017.
  • A total of 133,176 farms and ranches use renewable energy producing systems, more than double the 57,299 in 2012.

Demographics

For the 2017 Census of Agriculture, NASS changed the demographic questions to better represent the roles of all persons involved in on-farm decision making. As a result, in 2017 the number of producers is up by nearly 7 percent to 3.4 million, because more farms reported multiple producers.

Most of these newly identified producers are female. While the number of male producers fell 1.7 percent to 2.17 million from 2012 to 2017, the number of female producers increased by nearly 27 percent to 1.23 million.

Other demographic highlights include:

  • The average age of all producers is 57.5, up 1.2 years from 2012.
  • One in four producers is a beginning farmer with 10 or fewer years of experience and an average age of 46.3. Farms with new or beginning producers making decisions tend to be smaller than average in both acres and value of production.
  • Thirty-six percent of all producers are female and 56 percent of all farms have at least one female decision maker. Farms with female producers making decisions tend to be smaller than average in both acres and value of production.
  • Female producers are most heavily engaged in the day-to-day decisions along with record keeping and financial management.

Results are available in many online formats including video presentations, a new data query interface, maps and traditional data tables available at https://www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus/.