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Ag Census Shows Increase in Hispanic-Owned Farms
The latest Census of Agriculture, taken every five years, shows the nation's number of farms and ranches has increased by 4 percent, while the operators have become more diverse since 2002.
"The report is the only detailed information we have on not only a count of farms and ranches, but the people who operate them," said Carol House of the U.S. Agriculture Department's National Agricultural Statistics Service in Washington, D.C.
"We asked for production and acreage data, number of livestock and, most important perhaps, the demographics of the farm and ranch operators. For example, USDA wanted to know the age of farmers and ranchers out there and to be sure there are younger farmers in the country who will keep the wheels of agriculture turning in the future," House said.
In West Texas, the USDA already knew there were more Hispanic-owned farms, a trend that might be one of the biggest in agriculture, House said.
Nationally, the 2007 Census count showed Hispanic operators grew by 10 percent, and the counts of American Indian, Asian and black farm operators also increased. Along with more demographic diversity seen in the past five years, nearly 30 percent more women are principal farm operators.
The 2007 Census counted 2,204,792 farms in the United States, a net increase of 75,810 farms. Nearly 300,000 farms have begun operation since the last census in 2002. Compared with all farms nationwide, these new farms tend to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also work off-farm.
The latest census figures show a continuation in the trend toward more small and very large farms and fewer mid-sized operations. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of farms with sales of less than $2,500 increased by 74,000. The number of farms with sales of more than $500,000 grew by 46,000 during the same period.