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3 Texas Takeaways From The Latest Agriculture Census

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT
A cotton farm in Cuero, Texas.

From Texas Standard:

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture produces a count of all the country's farms, ranches, crops, livestock and anything else related to agriculture. It recently released data from its 2017 census and here are three things worth nothing:

1. The Middle Is Shrinking

In Texas, the number of very small farms and ranches has grown and, to a lesser extent, so have enormous ag operations. 

"You know, those mid-size, 100- to less-than-2,000-acre farms and ranches are more likely to be subdivided and eventually either sold or converted into non-ag use, or just broken up into little ranchettes," says Roel Lopez, director of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute.

2. Land Values Are Increasing

The census found that in Texas, the average value of an acre meant for agriculture was $1,917 – that's almost $250 more than its value in 2012.

3. Farmers And Ranchers Are Aging

In Texas, there are about 56,000 farmers and ranchers over the age of 75. There are fewer than 5,000 farmers and ranchers under 25. As a result, it's harder for older farmers to keep their operations going and difficult for new farmers to enter the industry. Also, some in the younger generation just aren't interested in the farming and ranching lifestyle.

"Many of the kids, for example, end up working in Dallas or Houston or San Antonio," Lopez says. "So they're no longer on the family place, and that sort of adds to some of the complexity in trying to sustain rural working lands moving forward."

Written by Laura Rice.

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