Selected SLC Research


Policy Analysis | March 13, 2012

National Ag Day--March 8th

Jonathan Watts Hull

In recognition of National Agriculture Day, consider the following: every day 2 million Americans, less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, rises early to tend the land and animals that feed the nation and the world. American farmers serve as stewards of over 40 percent of the land mass of the United States, protecting and preserving vital open space and water resources. Beyond the farm, agriculture and related industries employ 22 million Americans in rural and urban settings alike.

Agriculture is central to the economic well-being of the South and the nation. Even as the Great Recession has rocked American businesses, agriculture has grown, with agricultural exports exceeding $136 Biln in 2012, up 18 percent over the previous year. Indeed, since the economic downturn began, U.S. farm exports have enjoyed double digit gains every year. The current U.S. trade balance in agriculture remains one of the few surplus areas, with 2011 agricultural trade resulting in a net positive balance of nearly $43 Biln (at the same time the overall U.S. trade deficit has continued to swell, to $858 Biln in 2011). What makes this current run up in exports noteworthy is that it is taking place at the same time prices for key commodities are also high, resulting in record levels of net farm income.

The South has an abundant and varied agricultural sector, representing nearly the full range of animals and crops raised in the United States. Southern states lead the United States in production of broilers, cotton, cattle, rice, tobacco, among others. Indeed, the 15-state region accounts for nearly 30 percent of all agricultural output in the United States, a remarkable feat considering the South represents little of the nation's output of corn, soybeans and dairy, three of the top five commodities by value.

QuickStat: Top Commodity Production

#1

#2

Southern States Are the Top Producers of These Commodities

Southern States Are the #2 Producers of These Commodities

Broilers

Cattle and Calves

Cotton

Sweet Corn

Oranges

Rice

Tobacco

Eggs

Greenhouse and Nursery Products

Hay

Sorghum

Strawberries

Tomatoes

Turkeys


Farm Reciepts for Top Commodities

Commodity

Value of receipts (total US)

Regional receipts

Regional % of national receipts

Tobacco

1,246,570

1,206,876

96.8%

Cotton

6,266,559

5,553,750

88.6%

Broilers

23,696,132

19,333,694

81.6%

Rice

3,014,198

2,118,307

70.3%

Oranges

1,963,327

1,259,041

64.1%

Turkeys

4,371,378

1,893,188

43.3%

Chicken eggs

6,472,778

2,769,418

42.8%

Sorghum Grain

1,334,602

557,755

41.8%

Greenhouse/nursery

15,584,823

5,543,585

35.6%

Tomatoes

2,319,557

802,187

34.6%

Cattle and calves

51,531,014

16,215,361

31.5%

Sweet Corn

991,742

273,463

27.6%

Hogs

17,872,123

4,227,509

23.7%

Hay

5,402,024

1,244,129

23.0%

Soybeans

33,169,674

6,872,014

20.7%

Strawberries

2,245,736

386,332

17.2%

Wheat

10,866,320

1,554,343

14.3%

Corn

44,768,644

5,471,598

12.2%

Dairy Products

31,361,181

3,680,082

11.7%

Potatoes

3,052,680

245,157

8.0%

Apples

2,258,213

74,922

3.3%

Grapes

3,626,963

37,733

1.0%

Total selected commodities

273,416,238

81,320,444

29.7%

The diversity of the region's agriculture is reflected in its farms. The South has nearly half of all the farms in the United States, more than a third of the land in agriculture, and nearly a third of net farm income. Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia are the regional leaders in net farm income, bringing in more than two-fifths of the farm income for the region.

QuickStat: Farm Income

$235B

29%

Net Farm Income for the South

Southern Share of Total US Farm Income


Farm data

State

Number of Farms

Land in Farms, Thousand Acres

Net farm income, Million $

Alabama

48,500

9,000

901.1

Arkansas

49,300

13,700

1,340.0

Florida

47,500

9,250

1,965.3

Georgia

47,400

10,300

2,141.0

Kentucky

85,700

14,000

780.8

Louisiana

30,000

8,050

828.1

Mississippi

42,400

11,150

1,406.8

Missouri

108,000

29,100

2,200.8

North Carolina

52,400

8,600

3,337.0

Oklahoma

86,500

35,200

1,239.5

South Carolina

27,000

4,900

495.2

Tennessee

78,300

10,900

457.8

Texas

247,500

130,400

5,579.2

Virginia

47,300

8,050

425.2

West Virginia

23,000

3,650

-7.4

Region

1,020,800

306,250

235,090.4

United States

2,200,930

919,990

79,063.2

Region as a % of US

46.4%

33.3%

29.2%

Source: USDA, National Agriculture Statistics Service

Demographically, the South mirrors the nation in the composition of our farmers with one striking exception: the diversity of our farm operators. The South is home to nearly 38,000 Black farmers – more than 92 percent of all Black farmers in the United States – and 41,616 Hispanic farmers – more than half the national total. Overall, farmers in the region are older than the national average, with an average operator age of 55.6, slightly higher than the national figure of 54.9. The oldest group of farm operators, those older than 75 years old, represent a greater proportion of all farmers in the region than at the national level by 1.3 percentage points (9.5 percent regionally compared to 8.8 percent nationally). This group represents 10 percent or more of farmers in three states in the South (Mississippi-10.8 percent; South Carolina-10 percent; and Texas-10.9 percent). Also, Southern farmers are more likely to not be primarily engaged in agriculture than farmers nationally (38.5 percent regionally compared to 42.7 percent nationally), which is in part a reflection of the kinds of farm operations and activities that the South has in abundance.

QuickStat: Farm Operators

1,500,048

45.7%

Number of Farm Operators in the South

Southern Share of Total US Farm Operators


Farm operators by race/ethnicity

State

Total

% Male

% Female

African American or Black

% African American or Black

Hispanic origin

% Hispanic origin

Alabama

70,105

71.0%

29.0%

3698

5.3%

407

0.6%

Arkansas

74,227

68.2%

31.8%

1464

2.0%

651

0.9%

Florida

71,715

64.2%

35.8%

1803

2.5%

4869

6.8%

Georgia

68,232

70.9%

29.1%

2711

4.0%

547

0.8%

Kentucky

122,647

73.4%

26.6%

688

0.6%

594

0.5%

Louisiana

43,127

71.9%

28.1%

2517

5.8%

570

1.3%

Mississippi

59,732

71.3%

28.7%

6714

11.2%

599

1.0%

Missouri

161,160

69.8%

30.2%

270

0.2%

736

0.5%

North Carolina

75,665

73.4%

26.6%

1837

2.4%

738

1.0%

Oklahoma

129,602

67.5%

32.5%

1582

1.2%

1218

0.9%

South Carolina

36,563

71.5%

28.5%

2656

7.3%

277

0.8%

Tennessee

115,464

71.4%

28.6%

1390

1.2%

733

0.6%

Texas

367,381

68.4%

31.6%

8429

2.3%

28921

7.9%

Virginia

70,113

69.4%

30.6%

2139

3.1%

551

0.8%

West Virginia

34,315

70.8%

29.2%

54

0.2%

205

0.6%

Region

1,500,048

69.8%

30.2%

37,952

2.5%

41,616

2.8%

United States

3,281,534

70.0%

30.0%

41,024

1.3%

82,462

2.5%

Source: USDA National Ag Census 2007

QuickStat: Farm Operator Age

55.6

9.5%

Average age of Southern Farmers

Percent of Southern Farmers 75 Years of Age or Older


Farm Operators by age

Total operators

>45

%

between 45 and 64

<65 years old

%

<75 years old

% <75 years old

Average Age

Alabama

70,105

15,604

22.3%

35,868

51.2%

18,633

26.6%

6,201

8.8%

55.4

Arkansas

74,227

18,210

24.5%

37,985

51.2%

18,032

24.3%

5,605

7.6%

54.3

Florida

71,715

14,185

19.8%

38,467

53.6%

19,063

26.6%

6,884

9.6%

55.9

Georgia

68,232

14,388

21.1%

35,848

52.5%

17,996

26.4%

5,913

8.7%

55.6

Kentucky

122,647

29,429

24.0%

63,971

52.2%

29,247

23.8%

9,694

7.9%

54.3

Louisiana

43,127

9,572

22.2%

22,520

52.2%

11,035

25.6%

3,813

8.8%

55.1

Mississippi

59,732

12,407

20.8%

30,153

50.5%

17,172

28.7%

6,471

10.8%

56.2

Missouri

161,160

37,322

23.2%

81,763

50.7%

42,075

26.1%

15,042

9.3%

55

North Carolina

75,665

16,587

21.9%

40,022

52.9%

19,056

25.2%

6,236

8.2%

55.1

Oklahoma

129,602

29,774

23.0%

63,669

49.1%

36,159

27.9%

12,605

9.7%

55.3

South Carolina

36,563

7,134

19.5%

19,446

53.2%

9,983

27.3%

3,668

10.0%

56.2

Tennessee

115,464

25,392

22.0%

59,479

51.5%

30,593

26.5%

10,399

9.0%

55.4

Texas

367,381

69,308

18.9%

189,822

51.7%

108,251

29.5%

39,940

10.9%

56.7

Virginia

70,113

14,319

20.4%

37,017

52.8%

18,777

26.8%

6,584

9.4%

55.7

West Virginia

34,315

7,316

21.3%

17,776

51.8%

9,223

26.9%

3,115

9.1%

55.6

Region

1,500,048

320,947

21.4%

773,806

51.6%

405,295

27.0%

142,170

9.5%

55.6

United States

3,281,534

732,322

22.3%

1,725,777

52.6%

823,435

25.1%

289,999

8.8%

54.9

Source: USDA National Ag Census 2007

Farm operators by primary occupation

State

Total

Primary occupation - Farming

% of operators primarily farming

Primary occupation - Other

% of operators primarily employed off the farm

Alabama

70,105

26,635

38.0%

43,470

62.0%

Arkansas

74,227

31,159

42.0%

43,068

58.0%

Florida

71,715

29,958

41.8%

41,757

58.2%

Georgia

68,232

27,474

40.3%

40,758

59.7%

Kentucky

122,647

46,115

37.6%

76,532

62.4%

Louisiana

43,127

17,224

39.9%

25,903

60.1%

Mississippi

59,732

21,791

36.5%

37,941

63.5%

Missouri

161,160

62,441

38.7%

98,719

61.3%

North Carolina

75,665

32,907

43.5%

42,758

56.5%

Oklahoma

129,602

49,905

38.5%

79,697

61.5%

South Carolina

36,563

13,237

36.2%

23,326

63.8%

Tennessee

115,464

42,051

36.4%

73,413

63.6%

Texas

367,381

135,546

36.9%

231,835

63.1%

Virginia

70,113

28,072

40.0%

42,041

60.0%

West Virginia

34,315

13,411

39.1%

20,904

60.9%

Region

1,500,048

577,926

38.5%

922,122

61.5%

United States

3,281,534

1,399,791

42.7%

1,881,743

57.3%

Source: USDA National Ag Census 2007