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Bonnie Durheim’s farm on Peone Prairie in Mead.
Photo by Jackson Kiehn

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Agriculture by the numbers

USDA releases census data on the state of farming throughout the U.S.

May 2019

It was a few weeks later than planned, but in mid-April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

The new census spans 6.4 million new points of information about America’s farms and ranches and those who operate them. Information for the census is collected by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) by surveying farmers and ranchers. The Census of Agriculture is done every five years and includes national, state and county-level statistics.

“The importance of the census and the need for growers to accurately fill out the surveys can’t be underestimated,” said Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG). “Many USDA agencies, such as the Farm Service Agency, use census data to develop and administer farm and conservation programs, and lawmakers use the data to help inform policymaking decisions. We know growers are busy, but WAWG encourages them to participate in NASS surveys to the best of their ability.”

According to the 2017 census, the number of farms and the amount of land in farms has declined slightly since the last census in 2012. There also are fewer middle-sized farms with the largest and smallest farm operations growing. Finally, the average age of all farmers and ranchers continues to rise. Read more