2022 Census of Agriculture released providing the latest snapshot of North Carolina agriculture.

by | Feb 23, 2024

Last week, the 2022 Census of Agriculture was released which provides a snapshot of North Carolina agriculture. Some of the highlights point to positive trends in agriculture, others highlight the continued need to keep our focus on farmland preservation.

Today’s Topic with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis

  • Last week the 2022 Census of Agriculture was released by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
  • This Census is conducted every five years and it is intended to provide a snapshot of the state and nation’s agriculture industry.
  • As a point of trivia, the first Census was conducted in 1840 and included 26 states and the District of Columbia. That’s quite a long history.
  • In reviewing North Carolina’s data, my takeaway was some of the highlights point to positive trends in agriculture, while others highlight the continued need to maintain our focus on farmland preservation.
  • A highpoint for me in the data was the number of new and beginning producers was up 13 % from 2017. We have just shy of 23,000 new and beginning producers in agriculture.
  • Coupled with that statistic is that 32 % of producers are categorized as new and beginning producers, which are those with 10 years or less on a farm.
  • Also, the average age of farmers in North Carolina remained at 58.1 years.
  • What these numbers tell me is that we are seeing young people choosing to farm, which is encouraging.
  • While the statistics rank us as 15th in the nation in the loss of farmland from 2017 to 2022, those numbers don’t reflect the population growth and development the state is experiencing now or is projected to see in the next 16 years.
    Actually, the American Farmland Trust ranks us second in the country in projected land loss by 2040.
  • Seeing what I see in terms of development when I travel around the state, I know we need to really dig in on farmland preservation efforts and investments in agriculture’s future.
  • The numbers showed we have the largest number of farms in Randolph, Chatham, Buncombe, Johnston and Duplin counties.
  • There are major development plans and building taking place right now in Randolph, Chatham and Johnston counties.
  • Construction is underway now on a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in Randolph County that sits on an 1,800-acre megasite.
  • In Chatham County, an electric vehicle and battery manufacturing site is being built on 2,500 acres.
  • Recently, an 8,500-community is planned was announced that will be about three miles outside Pittsboro.
  • 1,800 plus 2,500 plus 8,500 equals 12,800 acres.
  • Altogether, we have recorded 34,000 acres in permanent conservation easements since 2006.
  • You can see why we have our work cut out for us.
  • Farmland preservation helps us ensure we have the natural resources we’ll need to continue to feed ourselves and others, but it also helps us maintain the green, lush landscapes we are known for and that attract people here.
  • If we lose over a million of our 8.1 million acres of farm and forestland as is project by 2040, it will significantly change the complexion of our state.
  • We can talk a long time about Census information and we may revisit this topic down the road, but I also wanted to point out that we are a top agricultural producer nationally.
    • In fact, the stats show we are No. 1 in poultry and egg production value at $9.2 billion;
    • No. 1 in turkeys sold and turkey inventory
    • No. 1 in tobacco acreage harvested (56 %)
    • No. 1 in sweet potato harvested (51.8%)
    • No. 2 in hog and pig production value
    • No. 2 in cultivated Christmas trees
    • No. 3 in cucumbers
    • No. 4 in strawberries
  • Our state and our farmers are feeding people! And that should be something we are proud of and something we should be grateful for.
  • Finally, I would like to thank all the farmers who filled out and submitted their information for this 2022 Census of Agriculture.
  • This data will be useful as we continue to talk about the importance of agriculture to our state and our economy.