Number of farms, young farmers, minority farmers rising in New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 20, 2014

Media contact: Longino Bustillos
New Mexico State Statistician
USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service

Media contact: Katie Goetz
Public Information Officer
New Mexico Department of Agriculture

New federal data reveal diverse portrait of farming, ranching across Land of Enchantment

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – There have beensignificant increases in the number of farms, young farmers, and minority farmers in New Mexico in recent years, according to the preliminary results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

The census shows that the number of farms and ranches in New Mexico is 24,721 farms, which translates to an 18 percent increase from the 2007 Census.  That stands in contrast to a national decline in the number of farms over the same period.  The amount of farmland in New Mexico was relatively unchanged at approximately 43.2 million acres.

While in the West the term “farm” may conjure images of crops rather than livestock, USDA’s definition of farms is quite broad: the federal agency defines a farm as “as any place that produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the Census year.”  In other words, USDA’s definition of “farms” includes farms, ranches, nurseries, greenhouses, and the like.

Other New Mexico-specific highlights from the census include an increase in the number of minority-operated farms during the period between the 2007 and 2012 censuses, particularly among the Hispanic community.  The number of Hispanic-operated farms jumped from 6,475 to 9,377 in the five-year span.

The average age of the principal farm operator in New Mexico continued its upward trend, rising from 59.6 years old in 2007 to 60.5 years old in 2012. However, there was also an increase in the number of farmers and ranchers under age 34, jumping from 818 in 2007 to the current tally of 1,200.

“I’m glad to see a wider diversity of people getting into farming and ranching in New Mexico,” said New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte.  “Diversity in farming and ranching creates opportunity.  I’m proud of the increased numbers of young and beginning farmers and ranchers in the state, which assures us that agriculture will continue to be a major economic driver in New Mexico for years to come.”

In 2012, the value of New Mexico agriculture products sold totaled $2.55 billion, up 17 percent from 2007.  Livestock, poultry and their products accounted for 76 percent of the state total at $1.93 billion.

“Part of what we are seeing is that more farmers and ranchers in New Mexico are taking the time to fill out the census as they understand the importance of having data that reflects agriculture trends in their communities,” said New Mexico State Statistician Longino Bustillos.  “The Census of Agriculture is used for decision-making by producers as well as those who serve farmers, ranchers, and rural communities – federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, and many others.”

Nationally, the 2012 Census reported little change in the amount of farmland, a more diverse principal operator population, and several historic changes in value of sales for U.S. agriculture producers from 2007 to 2012.  At the national level:

  • The United States had 2.1 million farms, down 4.3 percent in 2012.  In terms of farm size by acres, the decline continued a downward trend in mid-sized farms, while the smallest- and largest-size farms held steady.
  • The average age of a principal farm operator was 58.3 years, up 1.2 years since 2007, and continuing a 30-year trend of steady increase.  More minority-operated farms were also accounted for in 2012 than in 2007.
  • In 2012, the value of agriculture products sold totaled $394.6 billion, up 33 percent ($97.4 billion) from 2007.  For only the second time in census history crop sales ($212.4 billion) exceeded livestock sales ($182.2 billion).

“The release of the preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture results is only a first look at the data and NASS is eager to publish the final report this May,” said NASS Administrator Cynthia Clark. “The 2012 census was not conducted in a typical crop year, and drought had a major impact on U.S. agriculture, affecting crop yields, production and prices. NASS is still reviewing all 2012 census items to the county level and therefore data are preliminary until published in the final report.”

Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. When available in May, the final report will provide more detailed information for New Mexico providing data on all farm operators and data down to the county level.

For more information about the census, including access to the 2012 Census of Agriculture preliminary report and the full report when it is released in May, visit