The USDA’s Census of Agriculture is completed every five years. The data is compiled and released with details about the country’s agricultural sectors. Recently, the 2017 Census of Agriculture was released with details about how the country’s producers are doing and on the demographics of these producers. Here are some key changes to know.
EGINAFarming by the numbers
The number of acres of farming land in the United States decreased by 1.6% to 900 million acres. In 2017, food and fiber in the U.S. were produced on 40% of 2.26 billion acres in the U.S. As fewer farms are profitable, we are seeing more farms consolidate. The number of national farms decreased by 3%, with 2.04 million farms in operation. Mega-operations are seeing strong growth. These operations have sales of $5 million or more and account for 35% of sales, which is 3% higher than the sales percentage in 2012.
Age on the Rise
The average age of farmers in the U.S. is increasing. While the national average age is 57.5, Florida has a higher average age at 59.8 years.
The U.S. farming community is becoming more gender diverse; 36% of U.S. farmers are women. In Florida, gender diversity in farming is growing with women accounting for 41% of producers.
In addition to gender diversity, Florida is reporting 15% of producers have served in the military.
Young and Beginning Farmers
Young and Beginning Farmers are prevalent in Florida. Over 24,000 Florida producers are classified as new and beginning. More than 5,000 producers are considered to be young farmers. This shows that the next generation will be involved in agriculture and many are turning to farming as a new option.
Florida Is a leader in Specialty Crops
Florida is home to the counties that lead in specialty crops. Many of the Florida crop leaders are South Florida counties. Miami-Dade is the leader in banana, guava, mango and passion fruit. Palm Beach County leads in bell pepper, mustard cabbage, radish, sweet corn, and sod operations. St. Lucie County is the national leader in grapefruit production. With these South Florida counties leading the production of specialty crops, Florida is earmarked as the top specialty crop producing state.
This column is sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.
BIO: Regina Thomas began her Farm Credit career in 1994 and currently serves as Financially Related Services coordinator where she oversees the Association’s leasing, crop insurance, and Farm Credit Express products. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Animal Science from Iowa State University and Masters of Business Administration from the University of Central Florida. She is a member of the University of Florida IFAS Center for Public Issues Education and a lead coordinator of the Florida Agricultural Financial Management Conference.