Every five years the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) sends out in-depth surveys to farmers called the Census of Agriculture, with numerous questions about specific farming operations. While most farmers will admit that filling out surveys is not their favorite activity, the summarized information provides very useful data to help the Agriculture Industry tell its story, and also guide federal and state agencies with their assistance programs.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than three million farmers in the U.S. tended 914 million acres, and sold $394 billion worth agricultural products in 2012. For the first time since 1974, crop products had a greater market value than livestock products. The $394 billion farm gate sales represented a 33% increase from 2007. Unfortunately, operating expenses also increased by 36%. Even so, US farmers saw a 24% increase in net farm income, because they found alternative sources of income to help boost their profitability.
In 2012, there were 47,740 Florida farms that managed 9,548,342 acres, and generated $7.7 billion dollars in farm gate sales. Obviously, agriculture is huge part of Florida’s economy. Florida’s 74,539 farmers also employed 107,192 full and part-time farm workers. Florida was one of states that actually saw an increase in the number of farms and acreage dedicated to agriculture. Since the 2007 Ag Census, 277 additional farms were added, and an additional 316 thousand acres were utilized for some type of farming operation.Agriculture in the Florida Panhandle also has a great story to tell. With less than 2% of the current population actively engaged in agriculture, every farmer and rancher needs to have an “elevator speech” or a short story to tell about farming back home. Whether you talk to school kids who visit your farm, help with the county “Ag in the Classroom” program, host a farm tour of politicians and community leaders, or simply talk with people in your community, it is helpful to know your county agriculture facts.
The Census of Agriculture provides all sorts of information from each county. The following charts are just some of the highlights of types of information that can be found in the 2012 US Census of Agriculture. Farming in the 16 Panhandle Counties was a $414 million dollar business in 2012.
[notice]If you have trouble reading the data, each chart will expand to full screen view, if you click on it with your mouse or finger on a touch screen. A direct link to a printer friendly version of the charts is also provided at the very end of this article.[/notice]