Iowa ranks near top in new Ag Census

American agriculture is an enormous, diverse part of the U.S. economy. Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service conducts a Census of Agriculture to develop a detailed compilation of facts and figures regarding the nation’s farms and ranches. The goal of the Census is to be a source of “uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation,” according to an overview released by the USDA.

The Census of Agriculture provides a vital overview of American agriculture. The Census is a comprehensive look at production practices, land use, land ownership and much, much more. Not only does the Census influence decisions about the future of agriculture, but it also documents the huge role rural America plays in building a strong, vibrant U.S. economy.

When the full 2012 Census of Agriculture is released in May, it will be a resource for decision makers. It should also prove fascinating to anyone with even a casual interest in 21st-century farm life.

Preliminary information about the 2012 Census was made available in February by the USDA. In a Feb. 21 column, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stressed that the Census findings illustrate the economic power of American agriculture.

“While the data do not paint a perfect picture, they do tell a story of the unlimited potential and growing opportunity in modern rural America,” he wrote.

The Census documents the continued and growing significance of Iowa in the nation’s agricultural economy.

That conclusion was highlighted in a statement released late last month by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. He pointed out that according to the preliminary data, Iowa has seen major increases in the following categories:

Total value of agriculture production – $30.8 billion in 2012 up from $20.4 billion in 2007.

Value of crops sold – $17.4 billion in 2012 up from $10.3 billion in 2007.

Value of livestock sold – $13.5 billion in 2012 up from $10.1 billion in 2007.

The preliminary data put the Hawkeye State in second place among American states in each of those categories. That is a move up from third place in the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

“The impact of Iowa’s agriculture industry is tremendous, and it continues to grow,” Northey said in the statement released by his department. “The growth over the last five years is a testament to the hard work, creativity and persistence of our farmers. Even with the recent softening of commodity prices, Iowa agriculture is well positioned to continue to be a key driver of the state’s economy.”

Some sectors of the U.S. economy are still sluggish. The latest Census of Agriculture documents, however, that the nation’s farmers and ranchers are making robust contributions to American prosperity. It should be a source of pride to all Iowans that our state is a crucial part of that impressive success story.