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U.S. Agriculture Census Shows More Farms In New England

WAMC/Pat Bradley

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued its preliminary 2012 census of U.S. agriculture. Taken every five years, the census released Thursday indicates that there are more farms in New England.

The 2012 agriculture censusshows 354 more farms in Vermont since the 2007 report and 28,400 more acres being used for farming. The market value of Vermont products also rose from about $673 million to about $776 million. Vermont Farm Bureau President Clark Hinsdale says Vermont’s results go against the trend.  “The trend nationwide is for less land in agriculture, larger farms and fewer people operating them. Here in Vermont all of those indicators are reversed. I think our farm-to-plate program, our community farmers’ markets and the general awareness of Vermonters about supporting the local economy by buying local is now showing up in national statistics.”

New York’s agriculture census reports a loss of 814 farms. But the amount of farmland increased more than 8,800 acres, and the average size of a farm grew by about 5 acres. The market value of farm products rose to $5.4 million. New York Farm Bureau Spokesman Steve Ammerman notes that the USDA has yet to provide detailed information on individual commodities, but says overall the census is good news.  “We lost about 800 farms in the state between 2007 and 2012, and while that’s not a good thing, New York didn’t take as big of a loss as the national average. We lost about two percent of the farms compared to more than four percent nationally. At the same time,  we saw the value of what we produce increase dramatically. Sales were up by more than a billion dollars. So agriculture still is a very vibrant and thriving sector in New York agriculture and in our rural economy.”

In Massachusetts, the USDA agriculture survey indicates, there are 64 more farms in the commonwealth and 5,600 more acres in production.  Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation President Rich Bonanno finds this preliminary report shows consistency between 2007, when the census was last taken, and 2012.  “It looks to me like there’s a lot of stability in the numbers over the last few years. Pretty much the same amount of farmland in agriculture. Pretty much the same number of farms. We had 84% of our farms grossing $50,000 or less in 2007, and we also have 84% of our farms grossing less than 50,000 in 2012. Now that’s a little concerning because prices for everything have gone up. Which indicates to me that farm profitability, especially in Massachusetts, is not where it was five years ago. Which is concerning.”

In Connecticut, the USDA counted 5,977 farms in 2012, up more than 1,000 from the 2007 survey.
A link to the USDA Census of Agriculture Preliminary Report is available here.

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