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New statistics show NYS saw a dramatic drop in family farms

By David Fisher


The USDA [recently] released its 2017 Agriculture Census revealing in-depth look at agriculture in this state since the last census was released five years ago. 

The USDA surveys farmers every five years and then takes more than a year to compile the data, which was released [April 11]. The most startling statistic is we now have 33,438 farms in New York state, about 2,100 fewer farms than 2012. This is the largest drop in more than two decades and is triple the national average of a three-percent loss. 

The losses run the gamut, including a nine-percent drop in both the smallest and largest farms in terms of value of sales. New York also saw a nearly 20 percent decline in the number of dairy farms in the state. These losses coincide with nine-percent increase in labor costs, while some other production costs, like feed, gasoline, and chemicals, declined. The average net farm income of $42,875 per farm is slightly below the national average

On the positive side, the census showed elements of growth. New York saw a 35 percent increase in organic farms, from 864 in 2012 to 1,330 farms in 2017. According to the market-value summary, the number of vegetable farms in the state totals 3,544 farms, up two percent, and fruit farms rose eight percent to 3,083 farms. New York had a 15 percent jump in maple operations to 1,662 in the state.

While there is still much more to learn as we evaluate the mountain of data, it is clear that the depressed farm economy has taken a toll on the overall number of farms in New York, as labor costs continue to mount for our family farms. At the same time, there are still opportunities across the board. Agriculture remains a leading driver of our rural economy and the data shows we must continue to invest in the farming community while also finding ways to improve the business climate for our more than 33,000 farms in the state.

Additional numbers:

• 98 percent of farms in New York are family-owned

• The state has almost 6.9 million acres in production, down from nearly 7.2 million acres in 2012

• Average farm size is 205 acres, up from 202 acres in 2012

• Farms have 21,860 female producers and 35,985 male producers in total

• Average producer age is nearly 56 years old.

• The state has 6,718 producers under the age of 35

• Hired farm labor totaled 55,363 employees

For more information on the 2017 New York Agriculture Census, visit:,_Chapter_1_State_Level/New_York/

For more information on the 2017 New York Agriculture Census by County, visit:,_Chapter_2_County_Level/New_York/          

David Fisher is president of the New York Farm Bureau. This viewpoint is drawn from a news release the New York Farm Bureau issued on April 12.

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