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Maryland Ag Shows Growth

MD Secretary of Agriculture Joe BartenfelderPublished in the April 27, 2019, edition of Lancaster Farming

By Secretary Joe Bartenfelder

In my five years as secretary of agriculture, I have often talked about our administration’s commitment to keeping rural Maryland open for business, and finding growth opportunities for our agriculture industry. Earlier this month, we were pleased to see statistical proof that Maryland agriculture is continuing to grow in the right direction.

On April 11, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) published the long awaited results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture. This report is regarded as the most complete, credible set of data available on our industry. This information will inform decisions for farmers, lawmakers, financial institutions and beyond.

This is the first new data of its kind since the agency’s 2012 Census of Agriculture. In those five years, we are seeing steady improvements in a number of key categories. This census also provides brand new information on farm operators and on-farm decision making.

Maryland’s total value of production for 2017 came in at $2.5 billion—a 9% increase from 2012. On a more micro level, the state’s per farm average net income increased from $38,920 in 2012 to $52,997 in 2017, which is a 36% increase.

One interesting trend in the data was an increase in the number of farms within the state: we have gained 173 farms since the last census, despite only a negligible change in acreage. This is due in part to an increase of smaller farms with less than 10 acres of land.

For the 2017 Census of Agriculture, NASS changed the demographic questions to better represent the roles of all persons involved in on-farm decision making. As a result, in 2017 the number of all producers in Maryland was 21,279, up from 19,055 producers in 2012.

We are seeing some promising trends among those 21,279 producers:

  • The number of female producers has increased by 33% since 2012. Overall, females account for 38% of the state’s producers, outpacing the national rate of 27%.
  • New and beginning producers with 10 years or less of farming comprised of 5,764 producers.
  • Producers with military service were published for the first time with 2,054 producers represented.
  • Young producers, age 35 years or less, comprised of 2,262 producers with an average age of 28.6 years old.

I am especially encouraged to see the number of young producers included in this data. As a fifth-generation farmer who has handed the operation over to the sixth-generation, I know exactly how important young farmers are to the future of our industry.

For much more on the 2017 Census of Agriculture, visit

Chesapeake Bay Ag Leaders Meeting

In the spirit of looking forward to our industry’s future, I was honored to host the 5th Annual Chesapeake Bay Ag Leaders Meeting here at MDA headquarters in Annapolis earlier this week. These meetings have proven to be a valuable opportunity to meet with my counterparts from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York, to discuss issues facing the industry throughout our region. This has also included valuable input and participation from our federal partners at USDA and the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

This year’s meeting covered a variety of topics including the emergence of industrial hemp, collaboration on animal health responses, and management of noxious weeds. As always, the main focus of the meeting was our joint responsibility to protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

I want to thank my colleagues who were able to make the trip to Annapolis and those who joined remotely. This open dialogue and spirit of collaboration has been incredibly helpful to our agency, and we look forward to continuing these partnerships. See you at next year’s meeting!

Contact Information

If you have any questions, need additional information or would like to arrange an interview, please contact:

Jason Schellhardt
Director of Communications
Telephone: 410-841-5888

Megan Guilfoyle
Public Information Officer
Telephone: 410-841-5889