Half of America's farms and ranches have Internet access and nearly 39% report using a computer for their farm business, according to new data released from the 2002 Census of Agriculture.

"These data illustrate the importance of the eGovernment initiatives being implemented by USDA," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "We are making more information available to farmers and ranchers through the Internet and helping to provide broadband access to rural communities. To date, this administration has provided over $253 million in broadband loans for rural areas."

Conducted every five years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census of agriculture attempts to reach every agricultural operator in America through a mail survey. Follow-ups by telephone or personal interview are conducted for those who do not respond by mail. Data represent all agricultural operations, defined as any place which sold or normally would have sold more than $1,000 worth of agricultural products during the census year.

Highlights of the Census include:

  • The top five states in value of agricultural products sold are California ($25.7 billion), Texas ($14.1 billion), Iowa ($12.3 billion), Nebraska ($9.7 billion) and Kansas ($8.7 billion).
  • Ninety percent of farms are operated by an individual or family. The number of corporate farms declined by 18.4% from 1997 to 2002, which reverses a trend that has continued without interruption since 1974.
  • Direct sales to consumers increased 37% from 1997, totaling $812.2 million in 2002. The value of organically produced commodities reached $392.8 million in 2002.
  • he estimated market value of land and buildings on the Nation's farms rose 24% from 1997 to 2002. The average value per farm increased by over $100,000 during the five-year period, reaching an average of $537,833 in 2002. The average value of land and buildings per acre is up more than $200 during that same time period to $1,213 per acre in 2002.

The average age of principal farm or ranch operators was 55.3-years-old compared to 54-years-old in 1997. But, for the first time, NASS collected information about more than one operator on the same farm. Results showed an average age of second operators at 49.4-years-old and third operators at 41.9-years-old.

The census of agriculture provides the only source of detailed, comprehensive agricultural facts for every county in America and gives facts on very specialized or small scale agriculture. For example:

  • Fresno County, Calif., held its place as the top county in value of agricultural products sold, reaching $2.8 billion dollars in 2002.
  • Mills County, Texas, was the number one county in inventory of meat and other goats with a total of 43.4 thousand.
  • Washington County, Maine, was number one in berry acres at 17.1 thousand acres.

Thousands of aggregated facts and figures can be accessed online from the NASS website at www.usda.gov/nass/ by clicking on "Census of Agriculture."