Final data June 3: Census shows ag's changing face

The new 2002 Census of Agriculture shows African American, American Indian, Hispanic and women operators are all significant contributors to agriculture and their numbers have all increased since 1997. The data includes the first ever comprehensive measure of the number of women involved in day-to-day farming and ranching decisions. Measures for each of these groups are also available for each state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has released preliminary state and national demographic data from the 2002 Census — the nation's largest agricultural information-gathering project.

“The 2002 Census of Agriculture serves as the most comprehensive source of data describing U.S. agriculture. The results show the great diversity of people involved in this important segment of our economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “For the first time, the census will provide us with measures of the total number of people operating farms and ranches, as well as the number of households sharing in farm income.”

“This census incorporates collection of new data and improved methodologies to enable us to present the most complete and accurate picture of U.S. agriculture available,” said NASS Administrator Ron Bosecker.

Several new measures were included in the 2002 Census of Agriculture, including information about more than one operator per farm. Final, complete data for Puerto Rico are also available.

Demographic data contained in the report released today include gender of operator, residence on or off the farm, days worked off farm, years present on farm, age group categories, race and number of persons living in each household. For example, preliminary results show:

  • The average age of American agricultural producers in 2002 was 55.3 years old.
  • 27.2 percent of agricultural producers were women in 2002; the number of women who were principal operators increased 12.6 percent from 1997.
  • Principal operators of Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino origin increased by 50.8 percent from 1997 to 2002.
  • Black principal operators increased by 8.8 percent and American Indian principal operators increased by 19.4 percent from 1997 to 2002.
  • Ninety percent of America's agricultural operations are still run by individuals or families and most are still small farms. In fact, the majority of operations (59 percent) had less than $10,000 in sales of agricultural products in 2002.

Final 2002 Census of Agriculture data at the national, state and county levels will be released June 3. That report will provide first time facts about organic crop acreage and sales, production contracts, farm computer and Internet use, plus the broader, full range of traditional census data including land use and ownership; acres irrigated; crop acreage and quantities harvested; livestock and poultry inventories; value of products sold; value of production contracts; participation in Federal farm programs; and, market value of land and buildings.

The Census of Agriculture is currently conducted every five years; the first was conducted in conjunction with the 1840 population census.

All reports from the 2002 Census of Agriculture will be available free through the NASS Web site at For additional information regarding the Census, call the NASS Hotline at 800-727-9540.

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