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The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, spanning some 6.4 million new points of information about America’s farms and ranches and those who operate them. New data was collected on such topics as military status and on-farm decision making.

Information collected by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) directly from farmers and ranchers shows that both farm numbers and land in farms have ongoing small percentage declines since the last Census in 2012. At the same time, there continue to be more of the largest and smallest operations and fewer middle-sized farms. For instance, only very small farms (annual sales of $2,500 or less) and very large farms (sales of $5 million or more) increased in numbers.

Here are some key highlights for the rural lifestyle segment (with the Census recording the total number of farms at 2.04 million):


  • 273,325 of farms operate from 1-9.9 acres. That's up about 18% from the 2012 Census.
  • 583,001 of farms operate 10-49.9 acres. That's down from about 1% from 2012.


  • Small farms by sales (sales of $50,000 or less) accounted for 76% of the farms and 3% of the sales. 
  • 208,074 of farms had sales of $5,000-$9,999, down about 3% from 2012.
  • 228,218 of farms had sales of $10,000 or more, down about 7% from 2012.

Beef Cattle Inventory

  • 244,836 of operations had beef cow herds of 1-9 head, down about 6.6% from 2012
  • 148,259 operations had beef cow herds of 10-19 head, down about 5% from 2012
  • 183,640 operations had beef cow herds of 20-49 head, up about 3.3% from 2012

Organic Operations

  • 18,166 farms had USDA organic status, up 21% from 2012
  • 3,867 organic farms had sales of less than $5,000, down nearly 11% from 2012
  • 1,470 organic farms had sales of $5,000-$9,999, up nearly 24% from 2012
  • 2,137 organic farms had sales of $10,000 to $24,000, up about 20% from 2012

Demographic Data

  • The average age of all producers is 57.5, up 1.2 years from 2012. The number of producers who have served in the military is 370,619, or 11% of all. They are older than the average at 67.9.
  • One in four producers is a beginning farmer with 10 or fewer years of experience and an average age of 46.3. Farms with new or beginning producers making decisions tend to be smaller than average in both acres and value of production.
  • Thirty-six percent of all producers are female and 56% of all farms have at least one female decision maker. Farms with female producers making decisions tend to be smaller than average in both acres and value of production. Female producers are most heavily engaged in the day-to-day decisions along with record keeping and financial management.

Other highlights:

There are 2.040 million farms and ranches (down 3.2% from 2012) with an average size of 441 acres (up 1.6%) on 900 million acres (down 1.%).

The 273,000 smallest (1-9 acres) farms make up 0.1% of all farmland while the 85,127 largest (2,000 or more acres) farms make up 58% of farmland.

Just 105,453 farms produced 75% of all sales in 2017, down from 119,908 in 2012.

Of the 2.04 million farms and ranches, the 76,865 making $1 million or more in 2017 represent just over 2/3 of the $389 billion in total value of production while the 1.56 million operations making under $50,000 represent just 2.9%.

Average farm income is $43,053. A total of 43.6% of farms had positive net cash farm income in 2017. Ninety-six percent of farms and ranches are family owned.

Farms with internet access rose from 69.6% in 2012 to 75.4% in 2017.

Sales to retail outlets, institutions and food hubs by 28,958 operations are valued at $9 billion.

For the 2017 Census of Agriculture, NASS changed the demographic questions to better represent the roles of all persons involved in on-farm decision making. As a result, in 2017 the number of producers is up by 7% to 3.4 million, because more farms reported multiple producers. Most of these newly identified producers are female. While the number of male producers fell 1.7% to 2.17 million from 2012 to 2017, the number of female producers increased by nearly 27% to 1.23 million.

Related content:

USDA Update: Small Farms Make Up 90% of the Farm Count

Mining Census Data to Uncover Local Trends