United States Department of Agriculture officials released the 2012 Agriculture Census report last week (May 2) that indicates net farm income in New Mexico has dropped for farms and ranch operations across the state by as much as 45 percent over the last five years.

But the report also indicated a greater number of census forms completed and returned in 2012 Census, especially by smaller family farms. In fact, the latest census report indicates nearly 98 percent of the state's farms and ranches are family owned.

New Mexico Department of Agriculture officials say many small farms across the state have diversified since the onset of the current drought cycle. New Mexico and the larger Southwest are facing a fourth consecutive year of abnormally dry growing seasons. Many small farms have turned to specialty crops and in many cases into greenhouse operations as a result. 

 

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According to the new report, New Mexico is not the only area where the number of farms and net farm income has declined. The overall number of farms nationwide dropped since the 2007 Census from about 2.2 million farms to 2.1 million in 2012, a 4.3 percent reduction in farming operations. For the purpose of the Ag Census, USDA-NASS considers ranch and all livestock operations as a farm.

 

 

In similar manner, the total number of farm acres nationwide declined over the same five year period, from about 922,000 acres in 2007 to 914,000 in 2012. But the average individual farm size jumped slightly, from 418 acres per farm to 434 acres per farm in the latest Census.

While the number of large farms and small farms remained about the same nationwide since the 2007 Census, the number of middle-sized farms declined over the last five-year period.