Ag News

2022 Census of Agriculture: The numbers are in

by Jennifer Whittaker

Posted on Feb 16, 2024 at 8:34 AM

Analysis of the USDA’s 2022 Census of Agriculture report is in full swing after the USDA released it Feb. 13. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts the Census of Agriculture (COA) every five years. NASS reports the response rate for the 2022 COA was 61%; more than 40% of responses were submitted online.

How many farms? How much farmland?

The census shows there are 1.9 million farms and ranches in the U.S. That’s down 7% from the 2017 census when there were 2.04 million. The total amount of farmland in the U.S. is 880.1 million acres, down 2% from 900 million in 2017.

Census data shows there are 39,264 farms in Georgia. In 2017, 42,439 farms were reported.  That’s a loss of 3,175 farms in the past five years.

The amount of farmland in Georgia, however, changed very little comparatively in the past five years. The 2022 census shows there are 9.939 million acres of farmland in Georgia. In 2017, Georgia had  9.953 million acres of farmland. That’s a difference of  14,417 acres.

One possible explanation is that farmers retired, retained ownership of their land and are renting it to other farmers resulting in fewer producers farming about the same amount of land.

“We saw similar changes in other states,” said Anthony Prillaman, director of the USDA NASS Southern Region, which covers Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. “In terms of farm numbers, the census data showed that most of the decline occurred in farms that have less than 180 acres.”

How many farmers?

Between 2017 and 2022, the number of U.S. producers held steady at 3.4 million.

Georgia has 67,082 producers the 2022 census shows; it had 68,087 producers in 2017. That’s a decrease of 1,005 producers in the past five years.

Size of farms

The average size of a U.S. farm is 463 acres, up 5% in the past five years from 441 acres. The median size of U.S. farms - the number that separates the higher half of a set of numbers from the lower half – is 72 acres; it was 75 acres in 2017.

The average size of farms in Georgia is 253 acres. In 2017 it was 235 acres. The median size of Georgia farms  - the number that separates the higher half of a set of numbers from the lower half – is 70 acres. In 2017 it was 67 acres.

"I want to thank all the farmers and ranchers who responded to the 2022 Census of Agriculture. said Prillaman. “The Census of Agriculture remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agricultural data for the U.S.  The data will inform decisions about policy, farm and conservation programs, rural development, research, technology development, ag education, and more over the next several years.”

Farmers by age

The average age of the U.S. farmer is 58.1 years, up 0.6 years from 2017. People between the ages of 35-64 account for 53% of U.S. producers. People 65 years and older make up 38% of U.S. farmers. People under 35 years account for 9% of U.S. producers. National statistics show producers are older in Southern states and younger in Midwestern states on average.

The average age of Georgia farmers is 59. In Georgia, there are 35,365 producers between the ages of 35-64 the 2022 census shows. There are 26,686 producers 65 years and older. The 2022 census shows Georgia has 5,031 young producers under age 35.

Farmers by gender

In Georgia, the 2022 census shows 43,322 producers were male and 23,760 were female. In 2017, Georgia had 44,839 male producers and 23,248 female. Female producers increased by 512 during the past five years while there are 1,517 fewer male producers.

The 2022 census shows 2.149 million of U.S. producers are male and 1.224 are female. In percentages, 64% of U.S. producers are male. In 2017, the U.S. had 2.172 male producers and 1.227 female producers.

Farming full time vs part time

 Nationwide, 38% of U.S. producers reported they did not work off the farm in 2022. Another 22% reported working off the farm 1 to 199 days and 40% worked off the farm 200 or more days.

There were 25,197 Georgia producers who said they didn’t work off the farm in 2022. Another 15,224 Georgia producers reported working off the farm 1 to 199 days, and 26,661 Georgians reported working off the farm 200 or more days.

Farmers by ethnicity

For 2022, the ethnic and racial description of Georgia farmers is as follows: there are 996 producers of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin; 55 Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; 229 American Indian or Alaska Native; 584 Asian; 2,700 Black or African American; 62,985 White; and 529 reported more than one race.

Nationwide, the 2022 census shows the ethnic and racial identities of U.S producers to be: 112,379 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin; 3,419 Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; 22,788 Asian; 41,807 Black or African American; 56,203 American Indian or Alaska Native; 30,564 reported more than one race; 3.2 million are white.

Beginning farmers are middle aged

Beginning farmers have 10 or fewer years farming experience regardless of their age. Nationwide, beginning producers increased in both the number of producers as a category and share of all producers. Slightly more than 1 million of the 3.4 million U.S. producers in 2022 were beginning farmers. Their average age was 47.1 and their farms were smaller than average in acres and sales.

Georgia ranked 7th in the U.S. for its percentage of total producers - 34.4% - that are beginning farmers. Rhode Island, Alaska, Maine, Colorado, New Hampshire and Hawaii ranked above Georgia. Idaho, Nevada and Florida ranked below Georgia.

Georgia had 23,085 farmers in the 2022 census classified as beginning farmers. These producers are associated with 14,543 Georgia farms that account for 2.46 million acres of farmland.

Georgia’s ranking in this category fell from 2nd in the 2017 census when it had 22,743 beginning farmers associated with 14,786 farms.

“Today’s Census of Agriculture Report underscores it’s imperative that we continue to deliver agriculture policies that create multiple streams of income and new, more competitive models for small- and mid-sized farms,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement following the release of the 2022 Census of Agriculture. “A combination of trade wars, the pandemic and policies that furthered a ‘get big or get out’ mentality pushed more people out of farming in the five years since the last Census, more than in any other Census period this century. America, and especially our rural communities, cannot afford this trajectory toward larger, but fewer, farms.” 

The U.S. Agriculture Census was first conducted in 1840  in conjunction with the U.S. Census every 10 years. Since 1997, the USDA National Statistics Service – the federal agency responsible for producing official U.S. agriculture data - has conducted the census every five years.

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