State census shows fewer farms but greater value for crops

SPOKANE — The value of farm products produced in Washington has increased dramatically over the past five years, even as the number of farms has dropped.

A new government census of agriculture found that the value of farm products in Washington grew from $6.7 billion in 2007 to $9.1 billion in 2012.

The survey, taken every five years and released Thursday, found that the number of farms in Washington dropped from 39,284 in 2007 to 37,249 by 2012. But total farm acreage changed little. The average farm was 396 acres in 2012, compared with 381 acres five years earlier, the survey found.

The survey also found:

  • More than 23,000 of the state’s farms were 49 acres or less in size. Only 2,594 were 1,000 acres or more.
  • The average value of agricultural products sold per farm rose from $172,917 in 2007 to $245,253 in 2012.
  • Of the state’s farms in 2012, 29,453 produced less than $50,000 in sales, while 1,620 had sales of $1 million or more.
  • Of the state’s 37,249 farm operators in 2012, 29,730 were male. Farming was the primary occupation of 17,650 farm operators, while 19,599 held other jobs.
  • The average age of a Washington farmer rose from 57 in 2007 to 58.8 in 2012. The vast majority had been on their present farm a decade or longer.
  • Farm operators were overwhelmingly white, with only about 1,200 non-white farmers in the state. But the number of Hispanic farmers, who can be of any race, rose from 1,643 in 2007 to 1,874 in 2012.

Nationally, there were 2.1 million farms in 2012, down a little more than 4 percent from 2007. The average age of a farmer nationally was 58.3.

The survey found the market values of crops, livestock and total agricultural products were all at record highs. Farms in the United States sold almost $395 billion in products in 2012, 33 percent higher than in 2007.

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