The number of farms in the United States fell from 2007 to 2012, according to figures just released in the 2012 Census of Agricultural. But the percentage of farms that earned $1 million or more that year doubled.

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The Department of Agriculture conducts a Census of Agriculture every five years. The preliminary report just released covers 2012.

There were 2.11 million farms in America in 2012, the census says, about 4.3% fewer farms than in 2007. The census counts any farm that produces and sells $1,000 or more of agricultural products annually. (The bar chart above shows the number of farms from 1982 to 2012.)

The chart below shows that the proportion of big earners to small earners is increasing slightly. Farms earning $1 million or more increased by 2 points to 4% of farms, while farms earning from $250,000 to less than $1 million climbed 1 percentage point to 8%.

The biggest proportion of farmers remains small operations that earn less than $50,000 a year. Three quarters of the nation’s farmers – or about 1.6 million farms – fall in that category. That’s a drop of 3 percentage points from 2007’s 78%.

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The average age of principal farm operators increased by 1.2 years to 58.3 years. The number of older farmers increased in every age category above 55 years of age.

One exception to the trend was a growth in the number of farmers who are aged 35 to 44 years.

The number of new farmers – ones who had been in their current operation less than 10 years – dropped 20% since the last survey.

There’s a wealth of information in the Census of Agriculture. And we hope to have more for you as USDA releases the data behind this preliminary report.

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