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Crates of tomatoes are loaded on a trailer attached to a tractor in the field BrilliantEye/Getty Images
MORE VEGGIES: The number of vegetable farms grew by 20% in Maryland and by 42% in West Virginia, according to the 2017 Ag Census.

Ag Census: Vegetable farms up in Maryland, West Virginia

But dairy continues to decline in Delaware and Maryland.

If you dig through the 2017 Ag Census, you’ll find some interesting numbers the government has compiled.

For the next few weeks, American Agriculturist is digging into the 2017 Ag Census to paint a more complete picture of Mid-Atlantic and Northeast agriculture. The numbers might have changed by the time the government got its hands on the data, but the census still provides the most comprehensive look at farms through numbers provided by the farmers themselves.

Our focus this week is on Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia.

In Maryland, 12,429 farms were counted. The average farm size was 160 acres, down from 166 acres in 2012. Of those, 10,263 farms were classified as family or individual operations, up 1.2%. The number of farms classified as a partnership rose from 931 to 957. Those classified as a corporation decreased from 975 to 970. Also, increasing slightly were farms classified as “other” — estate or trust, prison farm, grazing association, or other entity.

Net farm income rises

Total cash receipts were $2.47 billion, up 8.8% from 2012. Total farm production expenses rose 1.5%, to $1.97 billion.

The highest expense category was feed, $539 million, down 14% from the previous census. But labor, the second-highest expense, was up 38%, to $248.5 million.

Livestock purchased was up 35%, to $218.9 million. Other expense categories fell:

  • fertilizer, down 15%, to $121 million
  • chemicals, down 0.64%. to $77.6 million
  • gasoline and fuels, down 16%, to $72.4 million
  • interest expense, down 17.8%, to $62.4 million.

Total net farm income was $658.7 million, up 38% from 2012. However, more farms reported net losses than net gains — 7,065 to 5,364.

Dairy tumbles in Maryland

Dairy continues its decades-long decline in the state. Only 511 dairy farms were left in the 2017 Ag Census, down from 573 in 2012. There were 1,100 dairy farms counted as recently as the 1997 Ag Census.

Beef farms were the largest livestock sector with 2,486 farms, up slightly from the 2012 census.

Layer operations were up 30%, to 2,009 farms. Hog farms increased from 333 to 562.

The number of broiler operations decreased from 854 to 823, but the number of broilers and other meat-type chickens was up 0.95% to 307.6 million.

The number of farms growing corn for grain was down slightly to 2,483, but farms growing soybeans were up slightly to 2,516. Farmers were growing 512,697 acres of soybeans, up 7.8% from 2012, and 439,538 acres of corn, up 0.9%

The number of vegetable farms was up 20%, to 954 operations. Vegetables were grown on 29,339 acres, up slightly from 2012. Farms growing forage is 4,625, up 5%. There were also more orchards, 450, and more acres in orchards, 4,247.

Tobacco, which once dotted thousands of acres in southern Maryland, is nearly nonexistent. Only 40 farms reported growing tobacco on just 315 acres. For comparison, the 1997 Ag Census showed 727 farms growing tobacco on 7,814 acres.

Farms getting larger in Delaware

The number of farms counted in Delaware was 2,302, down 6% from 2012. But farm acreage was up 3.27% to 525,324, and the average farm size is up from 208 acres to 228 acres.

Farms classified as family farms were down 11.7% to 1,692. Partnership operations are up from 161 to 228, and farms classified as corporations increased from 317 to 341.

There were 46 farms classified as other — estate or trust, prison farm, or grazing association.

Total cash receipts were $1.46 billion, up 15% from 2012. Total farm production expenses fell 11% to $865.5 million.

The largest expense was feed, $368.8 million, down 26.7%. The second-largest expense was livestock purchased, up 23%, to $116 million. Labor is the third-highest expense at $54.7 million, up 8.7%. Fertilizer, fuel, chemicals and interest paid rounded out top farm expenses.

Net farm income doubled from 2012 to $638.4 million. Farms reporting net gains, 1,414, were higher than farms reporting net losses, 888.

Broilers rule

Broiler operations were the largest livestock sector in the Delaware for the 2017 census, with 602 farms, down from 672 in the 2012 census. Layer operations were second with 200 farms, down slightly from 204. Beef operations were third with 235 farms, down from 296. Hogs are fourth with 55 farms, down from 59.

Only 50 dairy farms were left in the state for the 2017 census, down from 77 in the 2012 census.

Slightly more farms grew soybeans, 798, than corn for grain, 732, which flipped from the previous census, where slightly more farms grew corn for grain. There were still more acres of corn grown, 187,963 acres, than soybeans, 178,342 acres.

Forage and hay were grown on 435 farms, down from 565 in the previous census. The number of vegetable operations also was down from 222 to 209. Vegetables were grown on 33,550 acres.

Only 33 farms reported growing an orchard, up from 21 in the previous census.

Smaller farms in West Virginia

The number of farms in West Virginia increased 9.9% to 23,622. The average farm size is 155 acres, down from 168 acres in 2012. Farm acreage is 3.66 million, up slightly from 3.60 million acres in 2012.

The number of farms classified as a family or individual operation is 21,963, up 9.7% from 2012. The number of farms classified as a partnership rose from 893 to 945. The number of farms classified as a corporation increased from 429 to 487. There was also an increase in farms classified as “other” — estate or trust, prison farm, grazing association or other entity — from 158 to 227.

Total cash receipts are down 6.5%, to $754.2 million. Total farm production expenses are down 11.9% to $671.3 million.

The highest expense category was feed, $195.4 million, down 40% from 2012. Livestock purchased is $130.9 million, up 2%. Labor costs, at $45.35 million, are up 4.73%. Gasoline and fuel costs, $38.6 million, are down 7.88%.

Interest expense, fertilizer and chemicals round out the top farm expenses.

Total net farm income is $134 million, up 80% from 2012. But more farms reported net losses — 14,873 — than reported net gains — 8,749.  

Layer operations up 49%

Beef is the largest livestock category with 10,336 farms, up slightly from 10,156 in 2012.

Layers were No. 2 with 4,464 farms, up 49% from 2012.

There are 892 hog operations, up from 725. Broiler farms, 308, were up slightly, as are the number of dairy farms, 458.

More farms grew forage, 16,657, than any other crop. More than 643,000 acres of forage are grown, up slightly from 2012.

Vegetable farms, 1,040, were up 42.6% from 2012, and the number of orchards was up 47% to 902.

Farms growing corn for grain dipped slightly from 702 to 635. The number of farms growing soybeans was up slightly from 141 to 166.


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