According to a recent post on its site, the USDA has released preliminary data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture that provides the public with a snapshot of rural America, which has remained stable despite difficult economic times.
The post shows since 1982, a total of 72 million acres of American farmland has been lost. However, the census results indicate this decline has slowed significantly since 2007. The data also addresses the trend of an aging farming demographic, pointing to signs that youth farming is heading in a positive direction.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed this trend in a statement, explaining, “A bright spot in the data is the slight increase in young farmers and the stable number of small farms and large-scale farms. While the aging nature of the farming population is a concern, we are hopeful that as we attract and retain the next generation of talent into rural America, this trend can also be reversed."
While the number of small and very large farms held relatively steady across the U.S., prolonged drought conditions and a lack of disaster assistance have made it difficult for mid-sized farms to thrive. The post implies that the 2014 Farm Bill will aim to provide much-needed relief and stability for these farms through guaranteed disaster assistance.
The USDA’s preliminary Census data provides an accurate snapshot of the current state of rural America to help identify diversity in crop production, markets, people and land use across the agricultural sector.