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Agribiz: Farm expenses increase 43 percent in five years
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It seems cash flow on both sides of the table has increased, but farming is still a tough business to be in. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final numbers from the 2012 census of agriculture, a document that includes 6 million pieces of data to show a snapshot of agriculture in this country, on Friday.

Total production expenses increased by an average of 43 percent per farm, from $109,359 in 2005 to $155,947 in 2012. Farmers spent more across the board, including fertilizer ($15,800 in 2005 to $28,200), chemicals (from $11,000 to $16,500), seed (from $15,100 to $23,500), feed (from $43,200 to $60,300) and cash rent (from $27,000 to $37,500).

But average net income also increased 29 percent, from $33,827 per farm in 2005 to $43,750 in 2012.

Across the country, the total number of farms dropped by 3 percent, but more young people were farming. More than one-fifth of all farmers in 2012 were just starting out with less than 10 years on their land. Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012. That’s an 11.3 percent increase in the number of young people getting into agriculture as a full-time job.

“The census results reiterate the continued need for policies that help grow the rural economy from the middle out,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The census also shows the potential for continued growth in the bioeconomy, organics, and local and regional food systems. USDA will continue to focus on innovative, creative policies that give farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs the tools they need to attract a bright and diverse body of talent to rural America.”

Other facts from the 2012 Census of Agriculture are:

  • A total of 969,672 farm operators were women — 30 percent of all farm operators in the U.S.
  • The number of Hispanic-run farms increased from 82,462 in 2007 to 99,734 in 2012.
  • Seventy percent of all farms in the U.S. had Internet access in 2012, up from 56.5 percent in 2007.
  • A total of 57,299 farms reported using a renewable energy-producing system in 2012, more than double the number of operations creating their own energy in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63 percent of renewable energy systems on farms.
  • Nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Industry estimates valued local food sales at $7 billion in 2011, reflecting the growing importance of this new market to farm and ranch businesses.
  • Total organic product sales by farms have increased by 82 percent since 2007, from $1.76 billion in 2007 to $3.1 billion in 2012. Organic products were a $35 billion industry in the United States in 2013.

Source: Written by: Allison Floyd;

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, His column appears biweekly on Thursday’s Business page and at

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