NAU Country News

2017 Ag Census: Demographic, Acre and Production Trends

Today USDA released 6.4 million new data points about America’s farms and producers. The 2017 Census of Agriculture shows both farm numbers and land in farms have slightly declined since the last Census, which was released in 2012.

The AgWeb team will dive into all of this data to find the trends that will most affect you. Here’s a first take on key data.

Number of FarmsTotal Farms: Two Ends of a Spectrum

  • The total number of farms in 2017 is 2.04 million that’s down from 2.12 million farms in 2012.
  • There continues to be more large and small operations, with fewer middle-sized farms. Farms with 2,000 acres or more grew from 82,207 in 2012 to 85,127 in 2017. Additionally, farms with one to nine acres increased. In 2012, there were 223,634 farms in that category, and as of 2017 there are 273,325.
  • Just 105,453 farms produced 75% of all sales in 2017, down from 119,908 in 2012.
  • Of the 2.04 million farms and ranches, the 76,865 making $1 million or more in 2017 represent just over 2/3 of the $389 billion in total value of production while the 1.56 million operations making under $50,000 represent just 2.9%.

Size of FarmsFarm Demographics

  • In 2017, 900,217,576 acres are in farms. The average size of farm is 441 acres, which is up from 2012’s 434 and 2007’s 418.
  • The estimated market value of land and buildings is $2,976 per acre and $1,311,808 per farm. Both of those are higher than values in 2012.
  • Nearly all—96%—of farms and ranches are family owned.

Farmer Characteristics

  • The total number of producers in 2017 is 3,399,834. That’s up from 3,180,074 producers in 2012.
  • Around 60%, or 2,172,373, of all producers are male, while there are 1,227,461 female producers, as of 2017.
  • Around 55% of all farms have at least one female decision maker. 
  • The average age of farmers is now 57.5, which is up slightly from 56.3 in 2012. The age range with the most farmers in it is 55 to 64. 
  • There are 321,261 young producers (age 35 or less) on 240,141 farms. Farms with young producers making decisions tend to be larger than average in both acres and sales.
  • One in four producers is a beginning farmer with 10 or fewer years of experience and an average age of 46.3. 
  • Average farm income is $43,053, as of 2017. A total of 43.6% of farms had positive net cash farm income in 2017.

Livestock Trends

  • Beef Cows: The number of farms with beef cows in 2017 is 729,046, which is up around 1,100 farms from 2012. 
  • Milk Cows: The number of farms with milk cows in 2017 is 54,599, which is down from the 64,098 farms in 2012.
  • Hogs: The number of farms with hogs and pigs in 2017 is 66,439, which is up from the 63,246 farms in 2012.

Crop Production Trends

  • Corn: In 2017, 14.8 billion bu. of corn were harvested, which is dramatically above the past five Census reports.
  • Soybeans: In 2017, 4.4 billion bu. of soybeans were harvested, which is dramatically above the 2.9 billion bu. harvested in 2012 (the previous high).
  • Wheat: In 2017, 1.8 billion bu. of wheat were harvested, which compares to 2.2 billion bu. in 2012.

Want to learn more about the data and trends from the 2017 Census of Agriculture? Visit


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