On February 13, 2024, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the results of its highly anticipated 2022 Census of Agriculture. For those of us who nerd out over farm data, the Ag Census is as exciting as it gets. Published every five years, the Census provides a trove of information about the state of U.S. food and farming, spanning more than six million data points, down to the county level.

Here are some highlights:

The 2022 results confirm the troubling decades-long trend of U.S. farm loss and agricultural consolidation.

  • Since 2017, the United States has lost approximately 142,000 farms, a 6.1% decline. At the same time, average farm acreage has increased by 5% to 463 acres, which points to the trend of agricultural operations getting bigger.
  • The number of factory farms producing hogs, cattle, and chickens continued to increase. In 2022, the largest factory farms produced nearly 1.4 billion more broiler chickens than in 2012.
  • Just two commodity categories comprised nearly 75% of U.S. farmland: oilseed and grain production (32%) and beef cattle production (40%).

The overall economic outlook for producers has improved since 2017.

  • In 2022, U.S. farms and ranches produced $543 billion in agricultural products, up from $389 billion in 2017.
  • Organic commodity sales grew to $9.6 billion, a 24% increase from 2017. Despite an increase in organic sales, the number of certified organic farm operations decreased by 4% and the number of farms transitioning acreage to organic production fell significantly (43%) from 2017.
  • In 2022, more than 116,000 farms sold products directly to consumers, with total sales of $3.3 billion. This represents a sales increase of 16% from 2017.

The Census shows a marked increase in young and beginning farmers and a significant decrease in Black-owned farms. 

  • 96% of U.S. farms report at least one white producer.
  • The number of Black-owned farms decreased by 13 percent, approximately double the percentage of overall farm loss.
  • There was a 2% increase in Asian-owned farms and an 8.7% increase in Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander-owned farms between 2022 and 2017.
  • In 2022, 1.2 million female producers accounted for 36% of all producers. 58% of all farms had at least one female decision maker. Alaska has the highest proportion of female farmers in the United States (50% of Alaskan growers are women), followed by Arizona (49.3%) and then New Hampshire (46%).
  • The average producer was 58.1 years old in 2022, up .6 years from 2017. While this continues the trend of an aging producer population, it is a smaller increase than in previous censuses.
  • 2022 saw an 11% increase in beginning farmers with 10 or fewer years of experience. The average age of beginning farmers is 47.1 years old. Beginning farmers make up more than 1 million of the total 3.4 million producers in the U.S. Producers under the age of 35 comprise 9% of all producers.

For more on the 2022 Census, check out the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) or the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.