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Ag Census data sounds the alarm on the loss of farms, farmland


WASHINGTON, DC — According to the recently released 2022 Census of Agriculture data, Virginia is trending with the nation in terms of fewer farms and less farm acreage than in 2017, when the previous census was conducted.


In 2022 there were 38,995 farms in the commonwealth compared to 43,225 in 2017. Farm acreage was 7.3 million in 2022, down from almost 7.8 million in 2017.


In Virginia, the number of small and medium farms—those under 1,000 acres—all decreased in numbers. But farms from 1,000 to 5,000 or more acres increased slightly—from 1,340 in 2017 to 1,367 five years later.


Nationally, the number of farms and farm acreage also decreased from 2017 to 2022. According to the 2022 census, there were 141,733 fewer farms in 2022 than in 2017. The number of farm acres fell to 880 million, a loss of more than 20 million acres in five years.


“The latest census numbers put in black and white the warnings our members have been expressing for years,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Increased regulations, rising supply costs, lack of available labor and weather disasters have all squeezed farmers to the point that many of them find it impossible to remain economically sustainable.


“Family farms not only help drive the economy, they allow the rest of the nation the freedom to pursue their dreams without worrying about whether there will be enough food in their pantries.”


Average farm production expenses, which include things like equipment, crop inputs, livestock, animal feed, labor, and more, increased across the nation and in Virginia as well.


The census also found that the average age of farmers continues to increase. In the Commonwealth, the average age of a farmer in the 2012 Census of Agriculture findings was 57.2. Ten years later, it had increased to 59.2.



How have other states in the Eastern U.S. fared when it comes to loss of farming operations? Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and others have lost thousands of farms in the last five years. Related story here



The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service conducts the Census of Agriculture every five years. The data collected provides valuable insights into demographics, economics, land use, and activities on U.S. farms and ranches.


In addition to tracking the number of farms and amount of farmland, the census tracks the value of agricultural products, the use of renewable energy-producing systems, and the characteristics of farm operators themselves.


“The Census of Agriculture provides critical information for USDA in its work to ensure farms of all types and sizes have the support that they need,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “The data provides a very important snapshot of agriculture’s production and economic health, and is useful in documenting trends that can help direct state and national public policy.”


The first Census of Agriculture was conducted by the Census Bureau in 1840 in 26 states and the District of Columbia. In 1997, the agriculture census was transferred from the Census Bureau to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The 2022 census is the 30th in the series and the sixth conducted by NASS.


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