Census of Agriculture Countdown Begins for America’s Farmers and Ranchers

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistic Service has released the 2017 Census of Agriculture, highlighting several key data points important to Montana’s agriculture industry. Montana’s report can be found here.

“The Census of Agriculture is an important tool for both producers and policy makers,” said Montana Department of Agriculture Director Ben Thomas. “While the report shows that Montana farmers have taken a big hit in farm income over the last 5 years, it also shows that our producers aren’t taking those hits lying down, as they continue to diversify and adopt new practices to make their operations more resilient.”

Perhaps the most significant datapoint from the report is that farm income in Montana is down nearly 30% since 2012. The loss in farm income shows that Montana farmers have not been immune to the higher input costs, extreme weather, and market volatility facing the industry.

There are also several bright spots included in the report:

  • Women are making up a larger piece of the Montana agriculture pie, with nearly 24% more female producers since 2012.
  • Montana producers also continue to show their willingness to adopt new technologies and conservation techniques, with no-till acreage up over 17% from 2012, for a total of 8,050,902 acres.
  • New to the census this year is a question on value-added agriculture. The report shows that 292 farms across Montana are adding value to raw commodities through further manufacturing or processing, worth over $9 million in 2017.
  • Producers are also taking more of an interest in specialty crops. Since 2012, Montana has added 162 new orchards and increased hops production from nearly 0 to 14,400 pounds.

The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The Census of Agriculture, taken only once every five years, looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures.

Eric Sommer
State Statistician

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)
Montana Field Office
Phone : (406) 441-1240 or
E-mail : eric.sommer@nass.usda.gov
Fax : (406) 441-1250
10 West 15th Street, Suite 3100
Helena, MT 59626