Corporate farms on the decline, agriculture census says

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Washington -Corporate farms declined 18 percent, while half of America's farms have Internet access.

Washington-Corporate farms declined 18 percent, while half of America's farms have Internet access.

They are just two facts gleaned from the 2002 Census of Agriculture released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nearly 39 percent of farmers participating in the survey report using a computer for their farm business, according to Census data.

"These data illustrate the importance of the government initiatives being implemented by USDA," says Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "We are making more information available to farmers and ranchers through the Internet and helping to provide broadband access to rural communities. To date, this administration has provided more than $253 million in broadband loans for rural areas."

Conducted every five years by NASS, the agriculture census attempts to reach every agricultural operator in America through a mail survey. Follow-ups by telephone or personal interview are conducted for those who do not respond by mail. Data represent all agricultural operations, defined as any place that sold or normally would have sold more than $1,000 worth of agricultural products during the census year.

Highlights of the census include:

  • The top five states in value of agricultural products sold are California ($25.7 billion), Texas ($14.1 billion), Iowa ($12.3 billion), Nebraska ($9.7 billion) and Kansas ($8.7 billion).

  • Ninety percent of farms are operated by an individual or family. The number of corporate farms declined by 18.4 percent from 1997 to 2002, which reverses a trend that has continued without interruption since 1974.

  • Direct sales to consumers increased 37 percent from 1997, totaling $812.2 million in 2002.

  • The value of organically produced commodities reached $392.8 million in 2002.

  • The estimated market value of land and buildings on the nation's farms rose 24 percent from 1997 to 2002. The average value per farm increased by over $100,000 during the five-year period, reaching an average of $537,833 in 2002. The average value of land and buildings per acre is up more than $200 during that same time period to $1,213 per acre in 2002.

  • The average age of principal farm or ranch operators was 55.3-years-old compared to 54-years-old in 1997. But, for the first time, NASS collected information about more than one operator on the same farm. Results showed an average age of second operators at 49.4-years-old and third operators at 41.9-years-old.

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