Agriculture and Food Statistics: USDA Charts the Essentials

The USDA Economic Research Service produces a lot of data about our nation’s farms and food stuffs. Recently, they made their series of “the essentials” into an easy to navigate portal, filled with 70 charts and maps that highlight key information about everything from food prices and consumption to the interplay between agriculture and natural resources. While it’s well worth exploring on your own, here were three of my favorites:

The number of U.S. farms and size of land in farms has been fairly constant over past few decades

Number of US Farms 1850-2012There were nearly 6.8 million farms in 1935, a number that has since fallen to roughly 2.1 million farms in 2012. Although farmland has declined slightly since 1935, it did not decline as significantly as the number of farms. Today’s farms are nearly three times as large, on average, as farms from 1935 (430 acres vs. 155 acres).

All farmers receive off-farm income, but small farmers depend on it

Median HH Income of Farm Operators by source and sales class 2012The majority of farms are very small, with annual sales less than $10,000. For these farmers, virtually all of their income comes from non-farm sources.

Americans love cheese, especially mozzarella

the big cheeseIn 2012, there were 11.5 pounds of mozzarella available for every person in the United States (that’s a lot of pizza!). There was more mozzarella per person in 2012 than all cheeses combined in 1970. The USDA notes that the tremendous growth of cheese availability was due “to the spread of Italian and Mexican cuisines and to innovative, convenient packaging.”

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center.
This entry was posted in Fun Maps and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.