USDA Releases Full Results of 2012 Ag Census

Agency finds 11.3 percent increase in the number of young people getting into agriculture as a full-time job

Published online: May 06, 2014
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USDA on Friday released full results of the 2012 Ag Census, showing more than 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States.

The agriculture census presents more than 6 million pieces of information, which provide a detailed look at the U.S. farm sector at the national, state and county levels.

“Once every five years, farmers, ranchers and growers have the unique opportunity to let the world know how U.S. agriculture is changing, what is staying the same, what’s working and what we can do differently,” said Dr. Cynthia Clark, the retiring head of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), which administered the survey. “Today, we can start to delve into the details.”

Census data provide valuable insight into the U.S. farmer demographics, economics and production practices.

“The Census results reiterate the continued need for policies that help grow the rural economy from the middle out,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “The data illustrate the power of USDA efforts to grow the economy and strengthen infrastructure in rural America, create new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers, and provide access to capital, credit and disaster assistance for producers of all sizes.”

Vilsack said Census data shows potential for continued growth in the bioeconomy, organics and local and regional food systems.

“USDA will continue to focus on innovative, creative policies that give farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs the tools they need to attract a bright and diverse body of talent to rural America,” he said.

Highlights of the 2012 Census of Agriculture data release include:

  • Operator demographics
    • Twenty-two percent of all farmers were beginning farmers in 2012. That means one out of every five farmers had operated a farm for less than 10 years as of 2012.
    • Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012. That's an 11.3 percent increase in the number of young people getting into agriculture as a full-time job.
    • 969,672 farm operators were female—30 percent of all farm operators in the U.S.
    • The number of farms run by Latino farmers increased from 82,462 in 2007 to 99,734 in 2012. That 21 percent increase reflects the changing face of America as a whole.
  • Adoption of technology, new marketing methods
    • Seventy percent of all farms in the U.S. had internet access in 2012, up from 56.5 percent in 2007, but there is more work to be done to expand internet access in rural America.
    • Farmers and ranchers continue to lead the charge toward a more sustainable energy future. 57,299 farms reported using a renewable energy-producing system in 2012. That’s more than double the 23,451 operations that reported the same in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63 percent of renewable energy producing systems on farms, with 36,331 farms reporting their use.
    • Nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Industry estimates valued local food sales at $7 billion in 2011, reflecting the growing importance of this new market to farm and ranch businesses.
    • Total organic product sales by farms have increased by 82 percent since 2007, from $1.76 billion in 2007 to $3.1 billion in 2012. Organic products were a $35 billion industry in the United States in 2013.

For full data, visit