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2022 Ag Census: Farm Sales Up


Published: Friday, April 19, 2024

Back in February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture dumped a massive amount of data with the release of the 2022 Census of Agriculture. In addition to the state and national statistics, there is also a trove of helpful information relating to counties.

Over the next four weeks, the Exchange will provide snapshots of all 28 counties—seven per week – in its coverage area. The series begins this week with features on the following Indiana counties: Allen, Cass, DeKalb, Elkhart, Fulton, Huntington and Pulaski.

Allen

Allen County has the most land in farms of any county in Indiana, with 329,722 acres. That's up 17% from 2017, according to the 2022 Census of Agriculture.

Cropland acres in 2022 totaled 303,989. Pastureland and woodland acres amounted to 4,941 and 9,706 acres, respectively. "Other" uses totaled 11,086 acres.

According to Extension ag educator James Wolff, one of the county's strengths is its diversity.

"We have a mix of large and small row crop farms," Wolff said. "We have vegetable production, organic production and a growing urban agriculture sector. I think this also helps our local food initiatives and connecting people more directly to their food via farmer's markets, roadside stands and on-farms sales. We also can't forget our value-added agriculture, with multiple large-scale food processing plants."

While the number of farms, 1,497, has fallen in the past five years, average farm size has increased by 21%, to 220 acres. Forty-one percent of farms are between 10 and 49 acres.

"Local food and small farms are on the tipping point of a boom," Wolff said. "While buy-in from consumers on local produce is increasing, it isn't quite to a point where it supports a great, local food community and really gives the local farmer the price needed to make a good living."

Since the last ag census in 2017, the demand for local food has increased and more small/urban farms have popped up. Wolff says there is also a push to support agriculture at the policymaking level. The new comprehensive plan for Allen County includes a section on agriculture, with focuses on food access, setting aside areas of prime farmland, supporting agritourism and removing barriers to urban agriculture.

Other Allen County statistics from the 2022 Census of Agriculture:

• Market value of products sold, $310.5 million, up 77%

• Net cash farm income, $99.3 million, up 113%

• Conservation practices: no-till, 36%; reduced till, 25%; intensive till, 24%; and cover crops, 8%

• Allen County ranks 10th in Indiana in sales of cattle and calves.

Cass

Cass County (Ind.) farmers earned a net cash income of $81,592,000 in 2022, according to the 2022 Census of Agriculture. That's up 111% from 2017.

The total market value of products sold in 2022 was $252.9 million, up 69% over 2017. Total farm production expenses were $180.06 million, up 48%.

The value of crop sales jumped from $99 million in 2017 to $194 million in 2022, though the number of farms (633) dropped only 1% during those five years, according to the 2022 Census of Agriculture.

Average farm size is 355 acres, up 14%.

Cass County has seen a dramatic rise in irrigated acres, moving from 800 acres in 2017 to 11,700 acres in 2022.

According to county Extension ag educator Jessica Outcalt, cattle production increased somewhat, while hog production decreased from 102,000 to less than 50,000 in 2022.

"Cass County has a really strong cattle production system, and several major food industries are located in the county, like Tyson," Outcalt said. "Red Gold tomatoes are also grown in and around the county, so we've got a decently diverse agricultural industry. In addition, Cass County is at the junction of several different ecoregions in the state, so you can experience a wide variety of soil types in a very small geographic area."

Maple syrup production increased tenfold, from 14 gallons produced in 2017 to over 170 in 2022.

Conservation practices like no-till and cover crops declined by acreage between 2017 and 2022, from 7,000 acres of cover crops to 5,000 acres in 2022. Conventional tillage practice use increased 66,000 acres to 79,000 acres.

DeKalb

Soybeans are the top cash crop in DeKalb County by a margin of nearly 2 to 1. The 2022 Census of Agriculture shows that DeKalb County farmers planted 93,915 acres of soybeans but only 48,701 acres of corn for grain. Other top crops were wheat, hay and forage crops, and corn for silage.

On the livestock side, DeKalb County ranks fifth in the state in the sale of cattle and calves. In 2022, sales totaled $24.4 million; the cattle and calves inventory stood at 16,035 as of Dec. 31, 2022.

DeKalb County is well represented in dairy cattle, with 10 farms generating milk sales of $15.7 million in 2022. That ranks 16th in the state.

"The three most interesting trends in DeKalb County relate to the number of farm operations, farm size and number of farm acres," said Elysha Rodgers, county Extension agriculture educator. "All three increased from 2017 to 2022, even with the increase in home builds during that time as well. In 2017, we had 771 farms compared to 818 in 2022. These farming operations also increased in their size of acreage, going from 206 acres on average in 2017 to 234 acres in 2022. In 2017, we had 158,931 acres involved in farming, while there are now 191,601 acres in 2022."

According to Rodgers, the biggest challenge facing the local agriculture industry is urban sprawl from Fort Wayne.

"We routinely see minor subdivisions come before our county plat committee, splitting off between two and 20 acres of farmland to build homes on," she said. "Another point of contention in our county has been the potential presence of solar energy. Several thousand acres have the potential to become impacted, but no action has been taken at this time."

In 2022, the market value of farm products sold was $166.6 million, up 78%. Government payments totaled $6.3 million (up 20%), and net farm income amounted to $50.4 million (up 69%).

Conservation practices show that 36% of DeKalb County farmers use no-till, 20% use reduced-till, and 14% use intensive-till. Nine percent of farms use cover crops.

Elkhart

According to the 2022 census, 1,285 of the 3,394 producers in Elkhart County are new or beginning farmers. That's more than one-third of the county's farmers.

Elkhart County increased the number of farms in the county by 9% since 2017 to 1,809 in 2022, bringing up land in farms by 12%, boosting average farm size by 3% and pulling up the net cash income 95% to $98,236.

Elkhart County is known for its plain communities, with diverse crops and livestock operations. The Wakarusa Produce Auction is a hot spot for produce sales, with wholesale and retail volumes of produce being sold twice a week during the growing season. It maintains a strong dairy presence, especially within the plain communities.

Challenges county agriculturalists face include: land availability, labor shortages, high interest rates and input prices, succession planning and disease prevention.

"Sitting on the county plan commission, I have started getting a front row seat to the land use conflict we are seeing between agricultural property and commercial development. We are seeing beginning farmers and homesteaders priced out from being able to afford land while multi-generational farms are being surrounded and consumed by manufacturing parks, among other things," said Crystal Van Pelt, one of two Elkhart County ag and natural resources Extension educators.

In the 2022 ag census, Elkhart County is ranked third in the state for overall agricultural products sold, with a total of $497,787 being split between crops ($146,413,000) and livestock and poultry ($351,374,000). The county ranked second in other crops and hay, and in horses, ponies, mules, burrows and donkeys sold. It ranked first in the state in sheep, goats, wool, mohair and milk sold, with $2,369,000 in sales.

"During COVID and since then, we've had an increase in people raising sheep/goats as well as an increase in backyard poultry. The county had some farmers who got out of agriculture or stopped raising livestock during that time period, while some farms were able to increase production on their farm. There was a noticeable increase in the amount of equine in the county as well," said Kathryn Jennings, Elkhart County ag and natural resources Extension educator.

Elkhart County ranked 15th in the U.S. for the sale of horses, ponies, mules, burrows and donkeys.

Van Pelt and Jennings said agriculture could improve infrastructure to support diversified farming operations, succession planning and biosecurity measures.

Fulton

The number of farms in Fulton County held steady from 2017 to 2022, but there were 15% fewer acres being farmed. That's according to the 2022 Census of Agriculture.

Fulton County had 636 farms in 2022, with the average farm size being 286 acres. Land in farms was 181,860 acres, down 15% from 2017.

The market value of products sold in 2022 was $195.3 million, up 39% from 2017. Total farm production expenses were $139.1 million, up 24%. Net cash farm income was $63.4 million, up 56%. However, government payments were down 79% at $1.2 million.

Seventy-four percent of the county's agricultural sales were from crops, while 26% of sales came from livestock and poultry. Major crops (in order) include corn for grain, soybeans, forage, corn for silage and wheat.

Fulton County ranks 10th in the state for Christmas trees and 10th for sheep, goats, wool and goat milk. The county ranks 16th for sales of cattle and calves.

As for land use practices, 21% of farms use no-till, 26% use reduced-till, 27% use intensive-till and 17% use cover crops.

Of the county's 1,120 farmers, 718 were male and 402 were female.

Huntington

Huntington County made a big jump in the last ag census in the state ranking for the total market value of agricultural products sold, moving from 27th to 18th. Sales amounted to $303 million in 2022, up 89% over 2017.

According to the latest ag census, Huntington County produced $192.5 million in crop sales and $110.5 million in livestock and poultry sales. Both crops and livestock sales ranked 19th in the state.

Net cash farm income was $88.3 million in 2022, up a whopping 220% over 2017.

Soybeans are the No. 1 crop in Huntington County, with 108,058 acres planted (up 6.6% over 2017). Corn for grain is second at 81,455 acres (up 33% over 2017). Other crops are wheat, 4,919 acres; hay and forage crops, 3,274 acres; and corn for silage, 1,942 acres.

For livestock, the county has witnessed strong growth in poultry with $39.9 million in sales. Total inventory, as of Dec. 31, 2022, stands at 647,493 layers and 120 meat-type chickens. Dairy is also strong, ranking seventh in the state with $42.1 million in sales.

"Huntington County has a strong agricultural land base," said Ed Farris, Extension agriculture educator. "There is a good mix of livestock and crop farms. Many crop farmers have improved yields through adopting new precision ag technologies along with implementing tiling in their fields. Many of the soil types include clay, which has a greater water holding capacity. We have seen some expansion over the years for poultry layer barns, swine farms and dairy operations."

The number of farms in the county stands at 643, up 5% over the last census. Average farm size is 342 acres, up 6%.

"I feel that the top challenge in Huntington County ag is profitability going forward," Farris said. "There is a concern that both crop and livestock farms will be able to generate sufficient income to meet expenses. We have had some decent profits in recent years for crop farmers. However, commodity prices are not expected to fully cover fixed and variable costs."

Regarding land use, 31% of farms use no-till, 24% use reduced-till, 21% use intensive-till, and 7% use cover crops.

"The USDA report from 2017 to 2022 shows a drop in intensive-till land use practices of 4% from 2017 (25%) to 2022 (21%)," Farris said. "I feel that this is an area where continued improvement can occur by farmers paying closer attention to soil health by utilizing more cover crops and less tilling of cropland. There have been opportunities in both the Wabash and Salamonie River watersheds for producers to obtain grant dollars by adopting soil conservation practices."

Pulaski

Popcorn and Pulaski County go hand in hand, according to the county ag and natural resource educator and the 2022 Ag Census.

"Pulaski County is one of the top counties for popcorn production," said Phil Woolery, ANR Extension educator. "The wide availability of irrigation makes it conducive here. It has a lot of potato production that takes advantage of the irrigation and sandy soils."

The county dedicates 25,616 acres of popcorn, which is the third largest crop in Pulaski, according to the 2022 Ag Census. The top five crops are: corn for grain (114,040 acres), soybeans for beans (79,493 acres), popcorn, forage (1,814 acres) and wheat for grain (1,059).

The average farm size has increased 14% from 2017-22 to 484 acres. A total of 507 farms employ 254,345 acres of land for farm use. While land in farms also increased by 6%, the number of farms decreased by 7%.

Woolery said sustainability is challenging for Pulaski County farmers, due to crop prices, farm succession and financial management. He said the county is following the national trend of farm consolidation, which usually happens when a farmer has no successor.

There are 900 active producers in the county, with over half (455) being in the age range of 35-64. There are 352 farmers ages 65 and over and just 93 under the age of 35. However, 240 of the county's farmers are characterized as new or beginning farmers.

Woolery encourages farmers to improve risk management, strategic planning, succession planning, soil health management and to diversify crops.

Pulaski County accounts for 2% of the state's agriculture. Crops make up the majority of the county's share in sales at 61%. Livestock, poultry and products take up the remaining 39%. The market value of crops is $225.48 million, and livestock, poultry and products are valued at $143.78 million, totaling $369.27 million for the county. Pulaski County ranks 12th in the state for market value of agricultural products sold.

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