National Ag Week is being celebrated March 17-23 all across the United States, with Tuesday, March 19, being designated as National Ag Day. As we celebrate National Ag Week, it is a good time to reflect on all the traditions and advancements that help make the U.S. agriculture industry second to none! Following are some interesting statistics about today’s agriculture industry.
- There are currently about 2.2 million farms in the United States (by USDA definition), with about 922 million acres in production, with an average farm size of about 450 acres. There are approximately 375,000farms in the U.S. with annual gross sales exceeding $100,000/year. While those farms represent only about 17% of the total number of farms, they account for over 80% of the total sales of agricultural products each year.
- 95% of the farms and ranches are operated by farm families as individuals, as well as by family partnerships and family corporations, usually multi-generational. According to recent data, it is estimated that 88% of the farms with over $1 million in annual gross sales are family-based farming operations.
- The U.S. agriculture industry employs more than 21 million people to produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber, or about 15% of the total U.S. workforce. Approximately 3.3 million people are directly involved in farming and ranching in the U.S.
- Today there are over 300,000 women who are the primary managers of farm operations in the United States, which is an increase of nearly 30% in the past decade. The number of African American, Hispanic and American Indian farmers in the U.S. has also increased significantly in the past decade.
- The sale of crops accounts for approximately 58% of the total gross receipts received by farmers in the United States, while the sale of livestock products is about 42%. Each year, U.S. farmers and ranchers produce approximately 875 billion pounds of feed grains (corn, wheat, etc.), 222 billion pounds of oilseed crops (soybeans, sunflowers, etc.), 140 billion pounds of horticulture crops (fruits, vegetables, etc.) and 132 billion pounds of sugarbeets, cotton and other crops. They also produce about 42 billion pounds of poultry, 26 billion pounds of beef and 22 billion pounds of pork. All of these crops and livestock are produced, processed and marketed more efficiently and much safer than just a few decades ago.
- It takes the average American less than 40 days to earn enough disposable income to pay for all the food that is consumed at home and away from home during the entire year. By comparison, it takes consumers about 100 days of earned income to pay all federal, state and local taxes each year, and nearly 60 days of income to cover health insurance and medical costs.
- The U.S. farmer of today produces enough food and fiber for approximately 155 people. This number was 19 people in 1940, 46 people in 1960, and 115 people in 1980.
- Farmers receive just under 16¢ of every consumer dollar that is spent on food. The other 84¢ is spent on processing, packaging, marketing, transportation, distribution, and retail costs of the food supply.
- One acre of wheat will yield about 40 bu./acre and will produce over 2,000 loaves of bread, or over 50 loaves of bread/bu. of wheat. If a farmer is paid $6.50/bu. for wheat from the farm, the wheat cost in a loaf of bread is only about 18¢/loaf. (Est. Retail Value is about $2.99/loaf).
Following is the farmer’s share of some other common food products (est. retail value as of February 2013, based on USDA average prices):
- Bacon – 89¢/lb. ($4.83/lb.)
- Sirloin steak – $2/lb. ($7.99/lb.)
- Boneless ham – 89¢/lb. ($3.99/lb.)
- Milk – $1.67/gal. ($4.12/gal.)
- Eggs – 98¢/doz. ($2.89/doz.)
- Breakfast cereal – 13¢/box ($4.89/box)
- Potatoes – 31¢/5 lbs. ($3.29/5 lbs.)
- Tomatoes – 33¢/lb. ($3.88/lb.)
- The soil erosion rate in the U.S. has declined by over 40% in the past 20 years. Today, conservation tillage methods are utilized on over 72 million acres of crop acres in the U.S., contour farming practices are used on approximately 26 million acres and over 1.3 million acres of waterways are maintained by U.S. farmers.
- Fresh beef sold at the retail meat counter in the U.S. has 25-30% less fat content than 20 years ago. Today, the average pork tenderloin only has about 1 gram more fat content than a skinless chicken breast, which is considered among the leanest of meat products.
- Today’s modern combines harvest over 900 bu. of corn/hour, or 100 bu. every seven minutes. By comparison, in the 1930s, before modernized harvesting equipment, a farmer would harvest approximately 100 bu. of corn in a nine-hour day.
- The Minnesota Agriculture Industry generated approximately $15.1 billion in farm income and over $5 billion in farm exports in 2010. Nearly one in five jobs in Minnesota is linked to the agriculture industry. Minnesota ranks in the top 10 states in the U.S. in corn, soybean, pork, dairy and turkey production.
Please celebrate and enjoy National Ag Week, and thank a farmer for the abundant supply of safe and affordable food that they provide for all of us !
(NOTE: Facts listed in this article are from USDA, National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau, and other sources.)
Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.