Census of Agriculture data reveals young farmers, farmers with military service play key role in New Mexico

For immediate release
April 18, 2019

United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service
New Mexico Field Office
Media Contact: Longino Bustillos, State Statistician
575-522-6023, longino.bustillos@nass.usda.gov

New Mexico Department of AgricultureMedia Contact: Kristie Garcia, Public Information Officer
575-646-2804, krgarcia@nmda.nmsu.edu

Newly released Census of Agriculture data reveals young farmers and farmers with military service play key role in New Mexico
New Mexico’s percentage of farmers and ranchers with military service was higher than national average

(Las Cruces, New Mexico) – Newly released data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture features new tables indicating the relevance of young producers, beginning farmers and ranchers, and producers with military service in New Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the Census data last week.

Young producers are those age 35 years or younger, while beginning farmers and ranchers are those with 10 years or fewer on any farm. USDA defines a farm as “any place that produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the Census year.” The definition of “farms” includes farms, ranches, nurseries and greenhouses.

New Mexico is one of the few states in which the number of farms continues to increase, and New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said female producers play an important role in the state’s family farms.

“We had 15,170 farms in 2002, and that number grew to 25,044 in 2017,” said Witte. “And female producers accounted for 41% of our producers in New Mexico in 2017.”

The state also had 10,628 new and beginning producers, which was 26% of the state’s total number of producers (40,850).

“Within the 26% of farmers who consider themselves new or beginning farmers, the average age is 50.1, which tells us that New Mexicans are returning to farming from other careers,” Witte said. “This once again proves that New Mexico has a strong culture in ag and that our people have a strong desire to grow and continue to provide food for their families.”

Witte said it is important to see the number of young producers increase, especially due to the high average age of producers in the state. New Mexico has the second highest average age of producers in the U.S. at 59.8, second only to Hawaii. In 2017, the Land of Enchantment had 2,848 young producers, which was approximately 7% of the state’s total number of producers.

“We need to continue to engage our youth and keep them interested in the agriculture industry,” said Witte. “Whether it’s farming, technology, ranching or the value-added industry, there are many opportunities in New Mexico.”

NASS New Mexico State Statistician Longino Bustillos said the USDA made a shift in the way it counts the number of producers farming or ranching, which affected the age and the number of female producers in 2017.

“The number of female producers and age demographic was calculated by allowing up to four producers at each operation to report, and taking the average age of those individuals,” Bustillos said. “This more accurately reflects the average age and the number of female producers making decisions on the farm. Because of the new method, USDA calculates the average age of producers from the 2012 Census at 58.3 in New Mexico, as opposed to 60.5, which was the average age determined when we only requested the age of the main operator.”

In addition to female producers, young producers and beginning producers, New Mexico saw a shift in farmers and ranchers with military service. That number totaled 5,366, which was 13% of New Mexico’s total and was higher than the national average of 11%.

However, an area of needed improvement for New Mexico is its internet access among farms. Only 60% of farms in New Mexico have internet access. New Mexico continues to lag behind the national average in farms with internet access, which is 75%. Internet access in New Mexico only increased by 4% from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Bustillos reiterated the importance of responding to the Census.

“The Census gives voice and opportunity to all farmers and ranchers to tell the changing story of agriculture over the years and identify emerging trends and needs,” said Bustillos. “We thank each and every person who took the time to respond.”

Response to the 2017 Census of Agriculture in New Mexico was 72.2%, which exceeded the national average response rate of 71.5.

NASS is pleased to share first-time data on topics such as military status and on-farm decision making. To make it easier to find data of your interest, results are available in many online formats including a new data query interface, as well as traditional data tables. All Census of Agriculture information is available at www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus.

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