Today’s Topic: What the Census of Agriculture shows about N.C.

by | Feb 25, 2014

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

The USDA has released preliminary results of its 2012 Census of Agriculture, and Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about North Carolina’s numbers.

“Unfortunately, the census showed that North Carolina lost 2,700 farms between 2007 and 2012,” Troxler says. The state now has about 50,200 farms on 8.41 million acres of land. In 2007, there were about 52,900 farms on 8.47 million acres.

However, the 62,560-acre drop in farmland is significantly less than the amount the state lost over the previous five years. From 2002 to 2007, the decrease was 600,000 acres.

A few factors may have slowed the loss of farmland. For one, the recession reduced the demand for land for residential and commercial development. But also, starting in 2005, the department worked with the legislature to set up the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund to help counties and conservation groups protect working farms and forests, and this program has been beneficial.

Even so, the loss of 2,700 farms is troubling at a time when worldwide demand for food continues to grow. Also, North Carolina is gaining about 100,000 people a year, which will only increase the pressure on farmland.

One of the bright spots of the census was that, between 2007 and 2012 the market value of N.C. agricultural products sold increased 22 percent to $12.6 billion. And the per-farm average value of sales grew by 28 percent to $250,000.

Other census findings:

  • The average size of a North Carolina farm is now 168 acres, eight more than in 2007.
  • The average age of N.C. farmers jumped 3 percent to 58.9, which is in line with the national average.

USDA will release additional census data in the spring.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the 2012 Census of Agriculture and what the advancing age of N.C. farmers could mean in the future.

[Audio:|titles=Today’s Topic for Feb. 25]

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