At the recent USDA 2024 Agricultural Outlook Forum, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Chief Economist, Dr. Roger Cryan, gave a presentation on why he loves the Census of Agriculture, conducted every five years. He mentioned the rich and incredibly detailed information that comes from the Census of Agriculture, a data set that will be used quite a bit over the next five years by the Farm Bureau.

Not only did Dr. Cryan mention the data is available at the national, state, and county levels, but he also spoke of how valuable the data is to producers, to businesses that supply the producers, to those who study agriculture (researchers), to policymakers, and to basically everyone who depends on farm production for our food, fiber, and fuel.

The results from the 2022 Census of Agriculture were released on February 13. The trends across the United States and Arizona are similar in several ways, but also somewhat different due to some of the unique aspects of Arizona agriculture. Following are just a few highlights of the results at both the U.S. level and the Arizona level.

The number of farms continues to decrease across the U.S. and in Arizona. The U.S. number of farms, at 1.90 million, dropped 7 percent from 2017. The Arizona number of farms dropped 12 percent to 16,710.

What types of farms led to the decline? Across the U.S., all but the largest farms, those with more than $500,000 in sales, showed a decline from how many there were in 2017. There was an 18 percent increase in the number of farms across the U.S. with sales greater than $500,000. Across Arizona, however, those same-size farms, with more than $500,000 in sales, were virtually the same as they were in 2017. All the other smaller farms decreased in number except for those farms with $25,000 - $49,999 in sales. The size of Arizona farms increased in number by 19 percent or 95 farms from 2017.

Almost 83 percent of Arizona’s agricultural commodity sales came from 177 farms with sales of $5 million or more. This relatively high percentage of sales is significantly different from the U.S. in which farms with sales of $5 million or more represented only 42 percent of total U.S. sales. Almost 94% of the sales in Arizona came from only 433 Arizona farms, those with sales of $1 million or more. Maricopa, Yuma, and Pinal counties remain in the top 40 of all U.S. counties in value of sales.

Harvested cropland across the United States was down 6 percent, very similar to the decrease of 5 percent in Arizona. There were increases in harvested cropland in Cochise and Maricopa counties in 2022, but these increases were more than offset by decreases in Pinal, Graham, La Paz, and Yuma counties.

Arizona farms and ranches produced $5.20 billion in agricultural products in 2022. The majority (58%) of the sales were from crop sales. The Vegetable/Melon/Potatoes category led with 27.5% of all sales, followed by Milk (22.4%) and Cattle (14.0%). With farm production expenses of $4.14 billion, Arizona farms had a net cash income of $1.21 billion. Net cash income rose to $72,599 per farm in Arizona, not that much different than the U.S. net cash income of $79,790 per farm.

Nearly 2 of every 3 Arizona farms had internet access in 2022, an increase from 57.4 percent in 2017. In contrast, however, slightly more than 3 out of every 4 farms and ranches across the United States had internet access.

The average age of all U.S. producers was 58.1 years in 2022. The average age of Arizona’s 29,100 producers, however, was 60.1 years. Gila County producers had the highest average age in Arizona at 62.0 years and La Paz County producers were the youngest at an average of 55.6 years. Across Arizona, 16.5 percent of the producers were at least 75 years old, not that much different than those across the U.S. in which 13.8 percent of the producers were 75 years old or older. In Arizona, 7.2 percent of the Arizona producers were considered young producers, those producers less than 35 years of age. Nationally, 8.8 percent of U.S. producers were under 35 years old.

There is at least one American Indian producer on 62 percent of Arizona’s farms and 58 percent of all Arizona producers are American Indian. Of these American Indian producers, 52 percent are female. Due to the demographics of the 29,100 Arizona producers, Arizona continues to have one of the highest percentages of female producers, at 48 percent. Nationally, only 35 percent of U.S. producers are female.

Almost 1 in 4 Arizona producers is a New and Beginning Producer, one with less than 10 years’ experience operating a farm or ranch. The U.S. percentage is 30 percent. Veterans, those who reported having served or currently serve in the U.S. military, account for 7.4 percent of Arizona producers compared to the U.S. 9.1 percent.

Another item that Dr. Cryan mentioned at the Agricultural Outlook Forum was the confidentiality of the data that producers provide NASS. Not only does NASS ensure that individual data is not shared with anyone outside of NASS, by law, but no statistics will be published if the summarized numbers do not pass the strict disclosure rules of publication.

I want to thank every one of Arizona’s farmers and ranchers who responded to the 2022 Census of Agriculture, especially those who reported online which greatly reduces the costs of collecting data. Lastly, I want to thank the Arizona Farm Bureau and its leadership for sharing with their members how important the Census of Agriculture data is to agriculture at the national, state, and county levels.