The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Since 1801, Tennessee’s motto has been “Agriculture and Commerce,” and as we see in the latest Census of Agriculture results, our farmers do their part to stay true to it. In 2012, our state’s farmers and ranchers sold more than $3.6 billion worth of agricultural products.
Cattle is the largest sector of Tennessee’s farming industry. More than half of our state’s 68,050 farms raise cattle. The 2012 Ag Census counted more than 1.8 million head of cattle on 38,826 farms. Of these farms, 979 focused on dairy while 33,556 were beef cattle farms. This is also why our farmers spent nearly $680 million on feed purchases in 2012. Feed was by far the largest expense for our farmers in 2012.
We also have a very large poultry sector in Tennessee. The 2012 Census counted more than 30 million broiler chickens and almost 1.7 million layers in our state. That year, our poultry producers sold more than $550 million in poultry and eggs. More than 27 million dozen eggs were laid on Tennessee farms under production contracts.
While most of our farms raise livestock, it is the crop sector where our producers truly shine. Cotton is especially near and dear to Tennessee farmers. After all, it is has been one of our state’s biggest crops for nearly two centuries. While only 377,000 acres were dedicated to cotton in 2012, our growers sold more than $250 million of this important crop, ranking us eighth in the nation in sales and sixth in acreage.
Tobacco is another traditional crop in Tennessee. While the tobacco-growing industry in Tennessee is shrinking, as of 2012 Census, we are the third largest tobacco-producing state in the nation. In 2012 there were 935 farms in our state growing tobacco. Together, these growers sold more than $108 million worth of tobacco that year.
Our soybean industry is also booming, according to the Census. In 2012, our growers harvested more than 1.2 million acres and produced more than 45 million bushels of soybeans.
As you can see, our farmers and ranchers play a major role in our state’s and nation’s, economy keeping us true to our state motto. While we are already several years removed from the 2012 data, we’re already gearing up for the next edition, the 2017 Census of Agriculture. In just a few short years we’ll get a chance to see what new developments sprout, and I for one can’t wait. The future is surely bright for Tennessee agriculture.