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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

This week the United States Department of Agriculture released the preliminary report for the 2012 Census of Agriculture. From this early information I am not surprised that the nationwide number of farms continues the trend downward started in 1982 with a 4.3 percent drop since 2007. However, the number of Texas farms has increased from 247,437 in 2007 to 248,810 in 2012 while the average size has remained fairly constant at 523 acres.

 Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of land in farms in the United States declined from 922 million acres to 915 million acres. While this decline of less than one percent was the third smallest decline between censuses since 1950 it still signals that millions of acres of productive farmland is being swallowed up annually by unchecked urban sprawl and degradation by industry.

In 2012, the market values of crops, livestock, and total agricultural products were each record highs with U.S. farms selling nearly $395 billion in agricultural products in 2012. This was 33 percent – $97.4 billion – more than agricultural sales in 2007. In Texas the total market value of agricultural products sold plus government payments grew from $21,001,074 in 2007 to $25,412,880 in 2012.

The current average age of farmers was 58.3, up 1.2 years since 2007, and continues a 30-year trend of steady aging. In Texas, farmers are a little older with the current average age at 60.1, up from 58.9 in 2007.

On the flip side, the number of beginning farmers – on their current operation less than 10 years – was down 20 percent from 2007. Only about 172,000 farmers were on their current operation less than five years while in Texas 27 percent of Texas farmers have been on their present farm nine years or less.

Finally, the current census counted more minority-operated farms in 2012 than in 2007 with Hispanic principal operators increasing by 21 percent nationally. In Texas, Hispanic farmers increased by 14 percent. More details will be available in May.

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