Jun 19, 2014
Census: Vegetable production is stable

An early look at vegetable crops in 2012 compared to 2007 showed only small differences in some of the overall the numbers, reflecting a relatively stable base for many categories across the country, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, released in early May by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

There were slightly more vegetable farms in the United States in 2012 than there were in 2007, but those that were in operation showed a bit less acreage harvested.

There were 72,045 vegetable farms in 2012, compared to 69,172 in 2007. However, there were 4,492,086 acres of vegetables harvested in 2012, down slightly from 4,682,588 acres in 2007.

Tomatoes “in the open” were grown by 32,383 farms, holding 397,656 acres, in 2012, compared to 25,809 farms harvesting 442,224 acres in 2007. Of that total, there were 79 farms of 1,000 acres or more growing tomatoes on 192,295 acres in 2012. That compares to 97 farms over 1,000 acres, harvesting a total of 204,135 acres in 2007.

A total of 14,090 squash operations were reported in 2012, an increase from 11,821 in 2007. All squash varieties took up 58,486 acres in the latest census, compared to 54,453 acres in 2007.

Summer squash crops were reported by 10,693 farms in 2012, accounting for 33,190 acres, versus 9,170 farms totaling 34,093 acres in 2007. Winter squash was grown on 6,517 farms, taking up 25,296 acres, in 2012, an increase from 4,798 farms and 20,360 acres in 2007.

In 2012, sweet corn was grown on 25,632 farms and 572,068 acres, while in 2007, 1,910 farms produced 622,946 acres. Just 63 farms reported growing 1,000 acres or more of sweet corn in 2012, while 85 farms did so in 2007.

Pumpkins were grown on 15,840 farms totaling 90,165 acres in 2012, compared to 15,088 farms harvesting 92,954 acres in 2007.

In the bell pepper category (excluding pimientos) for 2012, 11,568 farms produced 49,762 acres. In 2007, those totals were 9,572 farms harvesting 62,363 acres.

Peppers other than bell (including chile) were grown on 7,951 farms and 31,854 acres in 2012, compared to 6,124 farms and 37,371 acres in 2007.

When they released the new statistics May 2, NASS officials pointed to overall record sales in the agriculture industry, moderated by rising expenses. The report showed agriculture is becoming increasingly diverse, while farming and marketing practices continue to change.

There are now 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States. The agriculture census presents more than 6 million pieces of information, which provide a detailed look at the U.S. farm sector at the national, state and county levels.

“Once every five years, farmers, ranchers and growers have the unique opportunity to let the world know how U.S. agriculture is changing, what is staying the same, what’s working and what we can do differently,” said Cynthia Clark, the retiring head of NASS.

Some of the key findings include:

Both sales and production expenses reached record highs in 2012. U.S. producers sold $394.6 billion worth of agricultural products, but it cost them $328.9 billion to produce these products.

Three quarters of all farms had sales of less than $50,000, producing only 3 percent of the total value of farm products sold, while those with sales of more than $1 million – 4 percent of all farms – produced 66 percent.

Much of the increased farm income was concentrated geographically or by farm categories. California led the nation with nine of the 10 top counties for value of sales. Fresno County was No. 1 in the United States, with nearly $5 billion in sales in 2012, which is greater than that of 23 states.

The top five states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion).

Texas had the highest number of farms (248,809) in 2012, followed by Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, California, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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Gary Pullano

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