US Agriculture Trends by the Numbers

U.S. farmers have made their voices heard through the latest Census of Agriculture, which reveals some surprising industry dynamics across various geographies and crop sectors.

"U.S. agriculture has changed more in the past five years than in the past 20 or 30 years," says Lynn Sandlin, Syngenta market insight manager. "The Census of Agriculture helps us identify trends so we can better serve retailers and growers."

One of the biggest changes reflected in preliminary census results, which were released in early 2014, is the large increase in the value of farm production.

"The value of average farm sales rose 38.8 percent, while the value of crops sold is up 47.9 percent," says David Widmar, a research associate with Purdue University's Center for Food and Agricultural Business. "Also, the number of farms with more than $1 million in sales rose 42.5 percent."

Given the bump in commodity prices since 2007, analysts expected an increase in the value of production, Widmar adds. What they might not have expected are 4.3 percent fewer farms from 2007 to 2012; a 3.8 percent growth in average farm size, which is now 434 acres; and the average age of the principal farm operator rising to 58.3, up 1.2 years. "It's critical to understand that, across the entire marketplace, older farmers are managing fewer, but larger operations," Widmar says.

The preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture results are just a first look at the data from USDA, which will publish the final report in May of 2014. Syngenta specialists will analyze this data for major and niche crops to guide additional research and meet growers' needs more effectively.

"Information drives everything we do, and the census is as close to the 'real world' as it gets," says Susan Covington, market research manager at Syngenta.