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Ag Stats Show Fewer - But Bigger - Farms

The latest Census of Agriculture is now out. It's a report the USDA releases every five years, checking on the status of farms across the country. The full report won't be released until May, but here's what we do know -- there are now about 2.1 million farms across the country, but that's a decrease of over four percent from the last survey.
The latest Census of Agriculture is now out.

It's a report the USDA releases every five years, checking  on the status of farms across the country.

The full report won't be released until May, but here's what we do know -- there are now about 2.1 million farms across the country, but that's a decrease of over four percent from the last survey.

And it's a similar story here in the Wabash Valley.

Despite this sight, Indiana farms are declining.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Hoosier State has lost more than 2,200 farms in the last five years.

Brad Burbrink, a farmer with 10 years experience, isn't surprised.

"As we move further along as farmers, there's going to be less of us. That's just the direction the business is going. We're able to do more things with the technology today," said he said. "Figure out how it'll improve our operation and how we can do a better job as producers."

Those computer and machinery upgrades - like GPS and even satellite imagery - mean most farmers can handle more acres.

The new data shows the average Indiana farm is about 251 acres - a ten-acre growth since 2007.

"We're no different than we used to be. I mean, we still want to produce food, it's just our task is a lot larger today because there's less of us," explains Burbrink.

And another change -- the average age of a farmer. That's now up to 58, the oldest its been.

But a bright spot: There's a small rise in the number of farmers between 25 and 34 years old, and across the country, agriculture is becoming more diverse.

"I used to want to be a pediatrician until I got into FFA and it really changed my mind," said Kendra Scarbrough, president of FFA at Sullivan High School. "Getting involved in this really helped me to see that I want to do that."
   
And that value can actually be measured.

In 2012, ag products totaled more than $97 billion, a 33-percent increase.

And for Burbrink, that just underscores how important American farmers are.
       
"It's a big job but I think as farmers in general...that's our goal, is to feed the world," said Burbrink.

The study shows Illinois lost nearly 1,800 farms over the past five years, but the average size of a farm was up by 11 acres.

The entire report, which details county by county data for the U.S. will be released in May. 
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