Maine Agriculture shows strength and potential for growth

May 2, 2014

For more information, contact: John Bott at (207) 287-3156

Maine makes gains during 5-year national recession

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) announced today that the final results of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2012 Census of Agriculture reveal that Maine agriculture has grown in the face of a challenging national economy. They also show that despite its modest size (compared to large national operations), Maine has out-sized potential for its products to be consumed locally and beyond its borders.

“The Census of Agriculture results show that Maine made progress in a number of areas in the midst of a challenging national economic environment,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “This is due to the resilience and hard work of farmers and processors, strong community support for Maine agriculture and the indomitable spirit of those who put food on our table. These results speak volumes of the potential for growth that will nourish and sustain us physically and economically.”

“The Census of Agriculture is an important indicator of the status and health of agriculture in Maine and nationally and is used to direct policies, programs and resources toward areas that will yield the best results.” said DACF Commissioner Walt Whitcomb. “When you balance the overall growth of Maine agriculture against the challenges for certain food production sectors like potatoes and dairy, we remain optimistic about the future. The LePage Administration’s focus on the natural resource economy, through the combined public resources in our new Department, makes Maine well-positioned for future growth and the creation of natural resource jobs.”

Maine Highlights from the 2012 Census of Agriculture:

Maine continues to lead New England in the number of farms –The Census shows that while the number of farms declined by 4 percent nationally, the number of Maine and New England farms has increased since 2007 when the last census was conducted. In 2012, there were 8,174 Maine farms, up from 8,136 in 2007 and 7,196 in 2002.

Maine farms with $100,000+ sales totaled 785 (10% of farms) and produced 90% of all gross sales. From 2007-2012:

  • The market value of Maine’s agricultural products increased 24%, from $617,190,000 to $763,062,000

  • Harvested cropland increased from 2007 to 2012 – The number of farms grew from 5,189 farms to 5,325 farms (acres increased from 393,738-400,960). Cropland declined 10% from 529,253 to 477,343 acres, replaced by harvested hayland, increased pasture land and farm managed woodlots

  • Irrigated land increased by 47%, with the number of farms increasing from 901 to 1,365 (20,994 to 30,887 acres)

  • Vegetables harvested for sale increased by 9%, with the number of farms increasing from 968 to 1,473 (66,783 to 72,657 acres)

  • Total covered greenhouse vegetables and green cut herbs increased. The number of growers increased from 125 to 386, with square feet under cover increasing from 1,289,335 to 2,955,180 square feet. (Note: This reduces weather risk and increased year round vegetable production)

  • Aquaculture: The value of sales increased by 185% (from $26,300,000 to $75,107,000)

  • AG Labor: The number of operations with hired workers increased 28% (going from 1,886 to 2,415), with workers hired greater than 150 days increasing 29% (the number of workers hired for less than 150 days declined by -13%)

  • The number of Maple producers increased by 10% (468-517) and the number of taps went from 1,487,473 to 1,884,466 (increase of 27%)

  • Agri-Tourism: Income from Farm-related, AG Tourism & Recreational Services increased 78% (Increasing from $1,012,000 to $1,803,000). Participating farms increased from by 141% (112 to 270 farms)

CENSUS OF AGRICULTURE:

The Maine Department of Agriculture had its origins in 1839, just before the first national Census of Agriculture was conducted in 1840. The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. It highlights changing trends in U.S. operator demographics, agriculture production and farm economics. It is conducted every five years by the federal National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to produce official data about U.S. agriculture. It is a uniform, comprehensive source of agricultural data for every county in the nation. Like other farms around the country, all Maine farmers are required to complete surveys every five years.

For more information about the Census and access to the 2012 Census report, visit http://www.agcensus.usda.gov

For more information about the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, go to: http://www.maine.gov/acf