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New Agricultural Census Shows Maryland Farm Income Up; Farmers Increasing Direct Sales to Consumers, On-Farm Renewable Energy Production; Implementing Conservation Practices

HOW_Draft06ANNAPOLIS, MD – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released its five-year Census of Agriculture showing that the total value of agricultural products sold in Maryland increased 23.8 percent to nearly $2.3 billion over the past five years; however, while average farm-related income increased by 20.8 percent (to $109.9 million), farm expenses increased more, by 25.4 percent (to $1.94 million).

The 2012 Census tracked several conservation and other practices and statistics for the first time. For instance, the Census now shows how many farms are generating renewable energy and using it for on-farm production. There are 467 renewable energy practices now in place on Maryland farms (up from 131 in 2007) including 284 solar panel systems; 83 geoexchange systems; 29 using wind turbines and 45 producing biodiesel.

“These data show a tremendous commitment by farmers to use renewable energy and conservation practices as part of their farm management. Today I join Marylanders all across the State in thanking them for their commitment to protecting the environment for future generations,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Agriculture is a critical part of our state’s economy, quality of life, environment and food supply and one that we are committed to strengthening.”

Census land use data, obtained for the first time, showed that farmers are using conservation tillage on nearly half of Maryland farmland (962,481 acres) on 4,589 Maryland farms, while 7 percent of farm acres use conventional tillage practices. Also, 147,413 acres of farmland are under federal conservation easements.

The 1,276 farms selling directly to consumers showed a 32 increase in sales up to $28 million in 2012. New this year, the Census data showed that there are 539 farms selling market products directly to retailers. The number of organic farms in Maryland has declined from 146 five years ago to 91 now. Acreage and other organic production data will be released in a NASS report this September.

“The new Census reaffirms that Maryland farmers are a strong and vibrant part of Maryland’s economy, evolving to meet the latest market interests, especially the growing consumer demand for local products,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “Our farmers are leaders in conservation efforts. I applaud them for all they do each day to provide a safe and abundant food supply and protect the environment.”

The Census also paints a picture of the nearly 6,000 Marylander who farm full-time. On average, their farm is 252 acres, generates $318,301 in sales, and is operated by a farmer nearly 61 years old who has been running that operation for 27 years and has been farming for almost 30. (Among those who farm part time, the average farm is 83 acres, generating sales of $57,966 and run by farmers 57.5 years old who have been farming the operation for 20 years and has been in farming for 22 years.)

Preliminary results of the Census released in February showed that there are 578 or 4.5 percent fewer farms in Maryland than there were five years ago; and there are 21,011 or 1 percent fewer acres of farmland than there were five years ago. In addition, the average Maryland farmer is 59 years old and has been farming nearly 26 years. The Census also showed that 18.7 percent of Maryland farms are run by women, compared to the national average of 13.7 percent.

Dale Hawks, Maryland State Statistician for the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, thanked farmers for participating in the census. “Your participation in the census has shown the nation the value and importance of U.S. agriculture,” he said. “I would like to thank you for providing the food, fuel and fiber to the world.”

The 2012 Census of Agriculture also found that:

  • The counties with the greatest number of farms are Frederick (1,308), Carroll (1,092), Washington (860), Garrett (667) and Caroline (658).
  • The counties with the largest value of production (in millions of dollars) are Caroline ($257.9), Wicomico ($236.3), Somerset ($219.0), Worcester ($199.3), and Dorchester ($187.1). 
  • The average farm size increased to 166 acres up from 160 acres in 2007.
  • 467 renewable energy practices on farms up from 131 in 2007. 
  • 119 farms marketed products through community supported agriculture operations (CSAs).
  • 72 percent of farmers have access to the Internet, up from 61 percent in 2007.
  • Almost 60 percent of farms have less than $10,000 in sales.
  • Average net cash farm income is $38,920 up 21 percent from 2007 ($32,161).
  • 4.6 percent of farms have sales of $1 million or more.
  • 1,753 farms contributed 90 percent of the value of production.
  • 17 percent more acres are now enrolled in crop insurance programs for total of 776,497 protected acres.
  • Government payments rose 8 percent from $33.3 million to $36 million in 2012.

To provide easier access to the data, USDA -NASS created a number of online tools for people to find and use Census data, including:

  • Quick Stats 2.0 – an online database to retrieve customized tables. For those new to this tool, a new tutorial video provides easy-to-follow instructions. 
  • API – a tool for developers.
  • Agricultural Atlas Maps – profiles of the nation’s agriculture at the county-level in a series of multicolor pattern and dot maps 
  • Desktop Data Query Tool – a downloadable desktop tool to analyze data without Internet access once you have downloaded and installed this tool. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service surveyed all agricultural landowners during the first six months of 2013 about their farm operations for calendar year 2012. A farm is defined as any place from which $1,000 of agricultural products were produced and sold or would have been sold during the census year.

For further information about the Census of Agriculture in the nation and in Maryland, log onto www.agcensus.usda.gov.

For a summary of Maryland Census Highlights, click here.
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