2007 Ag Census shows increase in total farms
Cheyenne — In early February results from the 2007 Census of Agriculture were released after the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) surveyed and quantified information from 2,204,792 U.S. farms and ranches.
One of the most interesting figures, says Wyoming NASS Director Glenda Shepler, is the increase in the number of U.S. farms. Nationwide the increase was four percent, while in Wyoming the number of farms increased 17 percent to 11,069 farms from 9,422 farms in 2002.
“One of the things you can see in the survey is a line of states from Montana to Texas and Louisiana where the number of farms increased,” says Shepler. “From 2002 Wyoming has gained 1,500 farms, although land in farms went down about four million acres.”
Wyoming’s land in farms dropped from 34 million in 2002 to 30 million in 2007, a 12 percent decline. The state’s average farm size decreased from 3,651 acres in 2002 to 2,726 acres in 2007, a 25 percent change.
One thing she thinks contributed to the dramatic increase in numbers was undercounting in 2002. “We continue to try to do a better job of building our list and finding all the small farms,” she notes. “The big ones are easy to find – it’s the small hobby ones that are harder to track.”
She says NASS finds those small farms in any way they can, and they’re constantly seeking to build the list.
Nationally, the latest census results show a continuing trend toward more small and very large farms and fewer mid-sized operations. Overall, the majority of U.S. farms are smaller operations with more than half characterized as residential/lifestyle or retirement farms.
According to the report, in Wyoming the largest increases were in the farms with less than 180 acres. The large farms – greater than 2,000 acres – decreased six percent.
Wyoming has 30,169,526 total acres of land in farms, with an average farm size of 2,726 acres and a median farm size of 230 acres. Fremont County has the most acres in farmland with an average farm size of 1,394 acres, while Hot Springs and Teton counties tie for the least at 180 acres on average per farm.
The average value per acre was the least in Sweetwater County at $179, while an acre of land in Teton County goes for $1,825 today.
In terms of livestock, Fremont County is home to the most beef cattle at 60,731 on 586 farms, while Teton County has the least farms producing beef cattle at 18 and the least beef cattle at 1,788.
The total inventory of cattle and calves in the state is 1,311,799 on 5,625 farms. There are 111,477 cattle and calves in Goshen County, which is the highest county in inventory, on 417 farms, while Fremont County has the most farms at 650.
The 2007 Census also counted almost 30 percent more female principal farm operators in the U.S. Hispanics grew by 10 percent, while American Indian, Asian and Black farm operators also increased. According to NASS, Wyoming’s number of farms operated by American Indians increased 61 percent to 235 farms, while women operated 1,604 of 11,069 farms.
Again in the 2007 Census it was found that the average age of farmers across the U.S. continues to creep upward, from 54 in 2002 to 57 in 2007.
Of the scope of the Census, Shepler says, “The Census helps illustrate growing trends throughout agriculture, both nationally and in Wyoming. This is an exciting time for the entire agriculture community because the census is the voice of every farmer and rancher – regardless of size or type of operation.”
Complete results of the 2007 Census of Agriculture, including new numbers about organic farms, on-farm energy generation, community-supported agriculture arrangements and historic barns are available at www.agcensus.usda.gov.
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.