Economic Tidbits

Counting Farms & Producers

Farms in Nebraska in 2017 numbered 46,332, down from 49,969 in 2012 according to the USDA Census of Agriculture. The USDA counts any farm which sells agricultural products of $1,000 or more as a farm. The number of farms in 2017 was the lowest reported over the past 20 years, with the only upswing occurring in 2012. Changes in the number of farms between each census are watched closely, while changes in producers often gets overlooked.

The census counts number of producers involved in farm operations too, with producers defined as persons who are involved in making decisions for the farm operation. In 2017, the term “operators” was replaced with the term “producers” in the census and the USDA counted a maximum of 4 producers per farm, whereas it counted a maximum of 3 operators per from in 2012. Nevertheless, some comparisons between producer numbers in 2017 and operator numbers in 2012 can still be made.

Total producers in Nebraska in 2017 numbered 77,097 compared to 74,786 operators in 2012. Unless the change in the maximum number of producers counted on each farm led to an increase in overall number of producers, more producers were involved in production agriculture in 2017 compared to 2012 even though there are fewer farms. Additionally, the increase in the number of producers was due largely to an increase in female producers. Female producers increased from 19,851 in 2012 to 24,730 in 2017, a 25 percent increase. Male producers decreased by more than 2,500 producers.

Nebraska producers on average are growing older. The average producer age in 2017 was 56.4, 2 years more than the average age in 2012. And, 60 percent of producers are aged 54 years or more. At the other end of the spectrum, 11 percent are less than 35 years old.

Finally, producers are in agriculture for the long-haul. Of the total number of producers in 2017, over 60,000, or 78 percent, have been farming for more than 11 years. An impressive feat given the vagaries of production agriculture.   

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