farmimageThose who have spent some time reviewing the 2012 Maryland Ag. Census figures may have seen a number of things to smile about. For example, the acres of farmland decreased by just one percent, proving that land preservation programs have been very successful in stemming the tide of farmland loss to suburban sprawl. Conservationists will be pleased that Maryland farmers are using conservation tillage on nearly half of all farmland and that many farmers are now using renewable energy for on-farm production. More about the Maryland results are available in Maryland Department of Agriculture’s press release.

Farm profitability results are not as rosy. The total value of agricultural products sold in Maryland increased by 24%  and expenses increased by 25% vs the national increase of 33% in income and 36% in expenses.

As with the rest of the country, the main reason for the increase in total value of agricultural products sold was due to grain sales. In Maryland, the grain crop in 2012 sold for 130% more than the grain sales in 2007. The grain crop was larger and sold for a higher price. That resulted in an increase between census years of over $400 million in total sales. The total sales of livestock, poultry and their products remained virtually unchanged, as the graph below depicts. In Maryland, the trend is quite positive over the last four census counts.

summary data

As the census figures were released, USDA Secretary Vilsack stated: “The Census results reiterate the continued need for policies that help grow the rural economy from the middle out. The data illustrate the power of USDA efforts to grow the economy and strengthen infrastructure in rural America, create new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers, and provide access to capital, credit and disaster assistance for producers of all sizes. The Census also shows the potential for continued growth in the bioeconomy, organics, and local and regional food systems. USDA will continue to focus on innovative, creative policies that give farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs the tools they need to attract a bright and diverse body of talent to rural America.”

Over the next few months, I’ll be breaking down the data in more detail, highlighting emerging trends in Southern Maryland, the State of Maryland, and in states that are trends setters in particular categories.

Stay tuned!