There will continue to be regulations, legislation and other decisions made about agriculture that affect your profits, losses and ability to farm. Just as on your farm, decisions made with little or no information are likely to be wrong.
I believe that good measures of the farm financial condition and other objective statistics are needed so that decisions affecting agriculture are made with the facts.
Therefore, it is important for us to have an accurate picture of the financial situation of the American farmer. Farm organizations can use this financial picture to review the potential financial effect of additional regulations or other programs and lobby Congress or Harrisburg on your behalf.
Additionally, individual farmers have called us to get these various economic measures and other official statistics to incorporate into their business plans or to take to their lender.
This survey also provides the data to generate the USDA Annual Report on Family Farms as required by Congress.
This detailed report includes information about average farm income, family and nonfamily ownership of farms, use of farm credit, use of government programs, use of natural resources and off-farm employment.
To generate this financial picture, we annually conduct the Agricultural Resource Management Study, or ARMS, across the entire United States. About 280 Pennsylvania growers are being asked for their help, along with 285 in New York, 641 in Ohio and 31,888 others nationwide.
Trained interviewers from the local area will be contacting a pre-selected sample of farmers to ask for their help. Each survey represents about 100 other farms of similar size across Pennsylvania.
If you are called upon to help, I hope you can take the time to make these financial measurements of U.S. and Northeast agriculture as accurate as possible. It could affect your future.
Being as this is a financial survey involving both on- and off-farm income, I know that it can be the longest survey we conduct during the year. But unlike other time-sensitive surveys, we have a couple of months to gather the data from selected farmers. So we want to work with growers to arrange the most convenient time for the interview.
For previous reports and other summarized data go to http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/arms-farm-financial-and-crop-production-practices.aspx.
Farms, Land in Farms <\n>and Livestock Operations
This report was released Feb. 19. Pennsylvania farm numbers fell slightly from 2011 to 2012 at 62,100 farms.
A farm is “any establishment from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were sold or would normally be sold during the year.” This definition includes government payments and places that had no sales but the value of their animals was at least $1,000.
Research, institutional and experimental farms are included as well as places with the entire acreage in government programs such as conservation or wetlands reserve programs.
Census — Not Too Late
Have you responded yet? Although the deadline to submit Census of Agriculture forms recently passed, it is not too late for producers to respond.
Yes, farmers can still send in their forms to be counted by mail or respond securely online. Farmers can return their forms online by visiting a secure website — www.agcensus.usda.gov — or by mail.
To complete the census online, farmers will need the census ID code that is on the mailing label of the census form that was mailed to each farmer. It is a series of 17 numbers and letters that appear on the first line of the label, immediately above the bars.
Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the census and requires the National Agricultural Statistics Service to keep all individual information confidential.
If producers have questions about the census, or if they lost, did not receive or need help filling out their forms, they can visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 888-424-7828. NASS has helpful tips available and people standing by to provide assistance.
The Census of Agriculture is your voice, your future, your responsibility.
The Commercial Floriculture Survey is being conducted in Pennsylvania and 14 other major floriculture states. Questionnaires were mailed out in December, and growers are being asked to provide information on production area, prices and sales of floriculture commodities, and the number of agricultural workers on their operation.
If the questionnaire is not received back in the office, an enumerator will contact operations by phone or field interview to complete the survey.
The information obtained through this survey will help identify state and national trends in areas such as new product development and changing production practices so that growers can make vital business decisions and evaluate the results of the growing season.
By participating in the survey, floriculture growers ensure that we provide accurate data on floriculture production, thereby enabling USDA and the industry to be more responsive to domestic and international markets and consumer needs.
NASS will compile and analyze the survey information and publish the results in April 2013 in the report, Floriculture Crops.
All reports are available on the NASS website — www.nass.usda.gov. For more information on NASS surveys and reports, call the NASS Pennsylvania Field Office at 717-787-3904.
End of season statistics are published annually for major vegetable crops nationwide. Pennsylvania crops are listed here for the 2012 season. Prices received by growers are a weighted average of wholesale and retail sales.
Sweet corn for fresh market totaled 1.04 million hundredweight or 10.7 million dozen if using 9.7 pounds per dozen. This is 27 percent more production than a year earlier. The average Pennsylvania price in 2012 was $38.70 per hundredweight.
Tomatoes for fresh market totaled 271,000 hundredweight, up 57 percent from a year earlier. The average Pennsylvania price in 2012 was $84.60 per hundredweight.
Snap beans for processing totaled 51,020 tons, up 17 percent from a year earlier. The average Pennsylvania price in 2012 was $295 per ton.
Cabbage for fresh market totaled 176,000 hundredweight, up 14 percent from the previous year. The average Pennsylvania price in 2012 was $28.30 per hundredweight.
Strawberry total production was 42,000 hundredweight, 5 percent above 2011. The average Pennsylvania price in 2012 was $164 per hundredweight.
Cantaloupe production totaled 112,000 hundredweight, 39 percent below 2011. The average Pennsylvania price in 2012 was $28.40 per hundredweight.
Pumpkin total production was 1.26 million hundredweight, 23 percent above 2011. The average Pennsylvania price in 2012 was $15.10 per hundredweight.
Pennsylvania farms had 1.61 million bovine on hand Jan 1, unchanged from the previous year.
Pennsylvania milk cows, at 535,000 head, are down 5,000 head from previous year; 155,000 beef cows — down 5,000 head; 310,000 milk cow replacements — down 5,000 head; 55,000 beef cow replacements — up 10,000 head; 65,000 other heifers — up 10,000 head; 170,000 steers —up 25,000 head; 25,000 bulls — unchanged; and 295,000 calves — down 30,000 head.
Nationwide, bovine inventories are 2 percent below the previous year. This is the lowest Jan. 1 inventory of all cattle and calves since the 88.1 million on hand in 1952.
Compared with last year’s inventories, milk cows are unchanged; beef cows down 3 percent; milk replacement down 2 percent; beef replacements up 2 percent; and steers unchanged.
Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter in all feedlots was 13.4 million head, down 5 percent.
Sheep & Wool
Pennsylvania farms had 86,000 sheep and lambs on hand Jan 1, down 3 percent from a year earlier. These sheep were on 3,672 farms in Pennsylvania.
Breeding ewes at 58,000 head is up 4 percent from previous year. Other changes are: replacement lambs down 23 percent, rams unchanged, and market sheep and lambs down 14 percent.
Wool production in Pennsylvania totaled 370,000 pounds in 2012, up 4 percent from the previous year. Average price to growers was 44 cents per pound, unchanged from 2011.
Pennsylvania farms had 56,000 goats on hand Jan 1. Milk goats at 13,000 head are down 13 percent from last year. Pennsylvania ranked sixth nationally in having the largest number of milk goats.
Meat goats at 43,000 head were down 5 percent from the previous year. Pennsylvania is currently tied with South Carolina as the 11th state with the largest number of meat goats in the United States.
Kevin Pautler is director of the Pennsylvania Field Office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS-PA) operated in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. For the reports mentioned here, go to www.nass.usda.gov and click on the “Publications” tab.