Census of Agriculture - FIC

We’ve detected that you are using an outdated browser.

Please use a new browser like Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Microsoft Edge to improve your experience.

We’ve detected that you are using an outdated browser.

Census of Agriculture

The Census of Agriculture is a “complete count” of farms and ranches and the people who operate them for every state and county in the United States. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census is the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agricultural data. On February 13, 2024, NASS released the 2022 Census of Agriculture. AFT's Farmland Information Center developed this data dashboard including a sample of data items frequently requested by people working to save farmland and ranchland for agriculture. These include census data on land use and ownership, producer characteristics, crops, livestock and production practices, income, and expenditures. The first two compilations focus on Land in Farms and Producer Demographics.

Census of Agriculture Data Dashboard

Land in Farms

The Census of Agriculture tracks land use on farms and ranches as reported by producers. Major land use categories include cropland; permanent pasture and rangeland; woodland; and other land including farmsteads, buildings, livestock facilities, ponds, roads, etc. Combined, these categories equal “land in farms.” 

Declines in land in farms are concerning. Land that is no longer part of a farm or ranch operation may be more vulnerable to development. A shrinking supply of land in active agricultural use creates additional barriers for beginning and established producers seeking suitable land. A smaller pool of land devoted to agriculture limits opportunities to establish sound farming practices and/or management systems.   

However, net changes in land in farms can be misleading. They provide one measure of the extent of agricultural activity, but do not tell us what is happening to the resource base. Decreases in land in farms do not necessarily indicate conversion; rather, they show that land has been taken out of active production. Better sources of information about agricultural land development and dynamic changes in land cover/use are the National Resources Inventory, conducted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farms Under Threat completed by American Farmland Trust. 

Producer Demographics

The 2022 Census of Agriculture provides data on all producers and transitioned away from the use of “principal” and “primary” producers. NASS tracked the total number of producers associated with each operation and continued to collect demographic information on up to four producers per farm. 

A review of data items related to producer demographics shows that the ratio of female-to-male producers remained unchanged between 2017 and 2022. The proportion of producers who identified as white also remained constant between the two census cycles. Young, and new and beginning producers, however, were slightly more diverse in 2022.  

The average age of producers continued to increase. While both senior and young producer populations grew between 2017 and 2022, the rate of growth among seniors outpaced their younger counterparts. Understanding how much land is managed and owned by senior producers is important for assessing the amount of land potentially at risk of being developed. When farmers retire without a next generation in line, land is more likely to be sold for development than kept in agriculture.  

To ensure the future of agriculture in the U.S., more young, new, and beginning farmers are needed, especially as the percentage of farmers nearing retirement increases. The number of new and beginning producers in the U.S. increased in 2022—those with 10 years or less of experience on any farm now comprise nearly one-third of the farming population. 

For More Information

Visit American Farmland Trust

Get engaged and receive the information you need right in your inbox.