POCATELLO — Idaho bucked a national trend by adding farms and ranches between 2012 and 2017, according to the latest Census of Agriculture.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture report, which includes data through 2017 but was just released on April 12, concludes Idaho had 24,996 farms, up from 24,816 farms in 2012. However most of those were classified as “very small” and were no larger than 49 acres.
Nationwide, the census concluded the nation lost 3.2 percent of its farms and ranches from 2012, with 2.04 million operations remaining, according to the Associated Press. However, the average size of a U.S. agricultural operation increased by 1.6 percent to 441 acres, according to the AP. Furthermore, about 75 percent of sales came from 105,453 of those operations, down by 14,000 from 2012. The average U.S. producer was 57.5 years old.
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation emphasized that the Census of Agriculture shows large producers are still carrying most of the economic weight in agriculture, despite the proliferation of the smallest farms. The report showed farms and ranches with at least 2,000 acres accounted for 58.6 percent of all farm revenue in Idaho in 2017. The smallest farms and ranches, by contrast, represented only 0.1 percent of the state’s 2017 revenue, Farm Bureau noted in a press release.
Furthermore, the report showed the state’s total acreage in farm land dropped during the five-year period from 11.8 million acres to 11.7 million acres.
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Cash receipts in Idaho dropped from $7.8 billion in 2012 to $7.57 billion in 2017, Farm Bureau noted.
“That comes as no surprise as many farmers and ranchers continue to struggle with depressed commodity prices,” the Farm Bureau press release reads.
Expenses, however, rose slightly to $6.65 billion in 2017. Farm Bureau singled out labor as major reason for rising costs: the report shows labor costs in Idaho rose from $592 million in 2012 to $736 million in 2017.
Farm Bureau found evidence in the report that Idaho farmers and ranchers are doing a good job of incorporating technology into their operations. Idaho ranked No. 1 for the greatest percentage of producers returning their surveys digitally, with 34.46 percent completing the work online, according to Farm Bureau.