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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been releasing information from its Census of Agriculture conducted in 2012. County data has not been released yet, so Marion County numbers are not available, but there are some interesting comparisons between Kentucky and the nation as a whole.
The number of farms in the US fell 4.3 percent from 2007 to 2012. There are 2.1 million farms in the United States. USDA defines a farm as an entity with over a $1,000 of sales of farm products. The number of Kentucky farms fell by 10 percent to about 77,000 farms. In 2007 Kentucky ranked fourth in the country in number of farms, but fell to sixth in 2012.
Nationally the average farm size grew about 3.8 percent from 418 acres to 434 acres. Kentucky’s average farm size grew about 3 percent, from 164 acres in 2007 to 169 in 2012. Some of this growth was in very large farms. In 2007 there were 1,745 farms of more than 1,000 acres. In 2012 this number grew to 1,928 farms. Kentucky farms appear to be much smaller than the national average, but this is skewed a bit when looking at grazing operations that make up a large number of our farms. We can carry a cow and calf on as little as two or three acres where some of the dry-land areas in the west may need 10 to as many as a 100 acres to keep the same animals. Our farms are much more productive because of our climate.
The average age of the principle farm operator nationwide was 58.3 years. Kentucky farmers were a little younger with an average age of 57.6 years. A bad sign is fewer young farmers to take the place of the aging farm population. The number of beginning farmers, which USDA defines as having less than 10 years of experience, fell nationally by almost 20 percent and in Kentucky by 24 percent.
Those in farming should be making more money as the value of crops and livestock sold nationally grew by 40 percent over the five-year period. This was primarily due to increases in grain prices, dominated by corn, which benefited from the booming ethanol fuel market. In Kentucky we do not grow as much grain as other regions of the country so our farm product value was only up 16 percent compared to 2007.
The trend toward fewer farms of a larger size, with older operators, is primarily a result of the enormous investment in land, equipment and livestock that is required to enter the farming business. It is much easier for an established farmer to buy or rent a parcel of land that comes available because he or she likely already has all of the equipment required to farm the property. The positive aspect of this is that agriculture production has become extremely efficient as farm and equipment size has increased. Productivity per man-hour has grown exponentially over the past 75 years giving Americans the benefit of the lowest cost food in the world.
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There will be a Beekeepers meeting Wednesday, April 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the extension office. We will demonstrate how to introduce purchased bees into the hive. Our guest speaker will be Greg Whitis, agriculture extension agent from McCreary County who has many years of beekeeping experience. Anyone with bees or interested in starting is welcome to attend the meetings. There is no charge to attend.
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Tobacco GAP Certification and Pesticide Training will be held April 15 at the Phillip Morris Receiving Station in Elizabethtown, and April 17 at the Phillip Morris Receiving Station in Danville. If you have already attended a 2014 GAP training you do not need to attend. Pesticide training on both days will begin at 5 p.m. and GAP training will begin at 6 p.m. You do not need to be selling to Phillip Morris to attend, however, you must R.S.V.P. as a meal will be served. For the Elizabethtown meeting call 270-360-8436 and for the Danville meeting call 859-236-1180.
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The Marion County Cattlemen’s Association is again offering a $1,000 scholarship to a 2014 high school graduate. They have asked the extension office to handle the application process and we have arranged for the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association to impartially rate the applications. Applicants must be a graduate of a Kentucky high school and be accepted to attend a Kentucky college or university and majoring in agriculture or a related field. A parent, guardian or the applicant must be a member of the Marion County Cattlemen’s Association. Applications are available at the extension office or at Marion County High School. Applications must be postmarked by April 20, 2014.
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There will be a final Farmer’s Market meeting prior to the start of the selling season on Wednesday, April 23, at 10:30 a.m. at the extension office. Farmer’s interested in selling at the market this year can sign up at the meeting or come by the extension office at any time. Dues for the association this year are $50 if paid before May 1 and $60 thereafter. If not a full member, farmers may sell at the market by paying a $10 weekly fee (I mistakenly had annual fee in last week’s edition. My apologies). The hours for the market this year will be Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning Saturday, May 10.
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Marion County Cattlemen’s Association will meet Tuesday, April 29, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be at the extension office. Please call the extension office at 270-692-2421 if you plan to attend.
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