This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

The Demographics of America's Farms and Farmers

Every five years the US government conducts its Census of Agriculture. Although a census, it is not, however, conducted by the Census Bureau. Rather, it is conducted by the US Department of Agriculture--that makes sense. The preliminary data from the 2012 census are just out, and they show a continued decline in the number of farms in the country. To start with, though, we need to how to know what is a farm: A farm is “any place from which $1,000 of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year.”
In 2012, the United States had 2.1 million farms – down 4.3 percent from the last agricultural Census in 2007. This continues a long-term trend of fewer farms.
Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of land in farms in the United States declined from 922 million acres to 915 million acres. This decline of less than one percent was the third smallest decline between Censuses since 1950. 
In 2012, the average farm size was 434 acres. This was a 3.8 percent increase over 2007, when the average farm was 418 acres.
AgWeb reported today on comments about the census made by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who spoke about some key farm demographics:
Of more concern to the secretary, who is intent on helping to bring more young people into farming, is that the average age of principal farm operators, 58.3, continues to grow. The average age has grown by slightly more than a year since the 2007 USDA census.
The most recent survey shows slight increases in farmers under the age of 35 and 25. "But we need to accelerate those increases," Vilsack said, noting the large number of operators that are older than 65 and even 75.
Farmer operators are also overwhelming (95%) non-Hispanic white, and mainly (86%) female. It seems as though a demographic day of reckoning must be coming soon to America's farms.

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