U.S. Census of Agriculture data to assist decision making

DOVER, Del. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Delaware office today announced the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture with new information about 2,302 Delaware farms and ranches and those who operate them, including first-time data about on-farm decision making, at the state and county level.

“Agriculture continues to play an important role in Delaware’s economy. I want to thank all of our family farmers who took the time to participate in the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “The information our farmers provided in the Census will help local and federal legislators, businesses, and others make informed decisions, especially on federal programs, that will directly impact our farms.”

Census data provide valuable insights into demographics, economics, land and activities on U.S. farms and ranches. Some key state highlights include:

  • The average age of all producers (a person involved in making decisions for the farm operation) was 57.4 years of age.
  • The number of female producers increased by nearly 12 percent from 2012.
  • The per farm average net income increased from $130,842 in 2012 to $277,316 in 2017.

The new Census data also shows that agriculture remains Delaware’s largest single land use, with 42 percent of Delaware’s land (or 525,324 acres) in farms, up from 508,652 acres in 2012. Poultry production ranked first in the state for market value of agricultural products sold with more than $1.1 billion, with grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas; vegetables, melons, potatoes, and sweet potatoes; nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod; and milk from cows rounding out the top five commodity areas.

“The Census shows new data that can be compared to previous censuses for insights into agricultural trends and changes down to the county level,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “We are pleased to share first-time data on topics such as military status and on-farm decision making. To make it easier to delve into the data, we are pleased to make the results available in many online formats including a new data query interface, as well as traditional data tables.”

For the 2017 Census of Agriculture, NASS changed the demographic questions to better represent the roles of all persons involved in on-farm decision making. As a result, in 2017 the number of all producers in Delaware was 3,907 up from 3,789 producers in 2012.

Other demographic highlights include:

  • New and beginning producers with 10 years or less of farming comprised of 851 producers.
  • Published for the first time, producers with military service encompassed 390 producers.

The Census tells the story of American agriculture and is an important part of our history. First conducted in 1840 in conjunction with the decennial Census, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. After 1920, the Ag Census happened every four to five years. By 1982, it was regularly conducted once every five years. Today, NASS sends questionnaires to nearly 3 million potential U.S. farms and ranches. Nearly 25 percent of those who responded did so online. Conducted since 1997 by USDA NASS – the federal statistical agency responsible for producing official data about U.S. agriculture – it remains the only source of comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation and is invaluable for planning the future.

Results are available in many online formats including video presentations, a new data query interface, maps, and traditional data tables. All Census of Agriculture information is available at www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus.


Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, (302) 698-4542, Stacey.Hofmann@delaware.gov

Delaware’s Young Farmer Loan Program secures future of agriculture

Dover, Del. – Delaware farmers, between 18 and 40 years old have the opportunity to apply for the Young Farmers Loan Program through October 31. The program provides long-term, no-interest loans to help eligible farmers purchase land, reducing the financial impact on farmers just starting out or looking to expand.

“This year was extremely important legislatively because the AgLands Preservation Program was funded for the full ten million dollars,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “Not only will this help increase the percentage of farmland preserved, but it will guarantee that there is a future in Delaware agriculture for a younger generation. The Young Farmers Loan Program is a powerful commitment to young people entering agriculture that Delaware stands behind them, and supports their goals and aspirations.”

Applicants must have at least three years of farming experience, and their net worth must not exceed $300,000. Eligible farms must contain at least 15 acres of cropland and must not be enrolled in a conservation easement at the time of purchase. The 30-year, no interest loans may fund up to 70 percent of the value of a property’s development rights, defined as the difference between full market value and agricultural value, up to a maximum of $500,000.

Delaware’s Young Farmers Loan Program began in 2011 to help lower barriers to young people wanting to get started in farming. Thirty-three farmers have purchased land so far in all three counties, totaling 2,517 acres of farmland using $7.4 million in loans. That includes both individual farmers and couples, all seeking to purchase new land or expand their existing farms. Land purchased through the program is permanently preserved through the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation.

Interested applicants can visit the Department of Agriculture website, agriculture.delaware.gov, for an information and application packet, or contact Deputy Secretary Austin Short at 302-698-4500 or austin.short@delaware.gov.


Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4542, Stacey.Hofmann@delaware.gov

Townsend-area farmers receive New Castle Conservation District’s Cooperator of Year Award

Norman and Gwen Pierce
Norman and Gwen Pierce, owners of Union Ridge Farms near Townsend, are recipients of the New Castle Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year Award.

TOWNSEND – Norman and Gwen Pierce, owners of Union Ridge Farms near Townsend, are the recipients of the New Castle Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year Award, presented annually to a farmer in the district who has exhibited a high degree of interest in conservation for their farm operation. The Pierces, who are Delaware natives, have implemented a conservation plan that addresses concerns with soil, water, air, plants and animal resources, and have addressed those resource concerns through technical and financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Castle Conservation District.

The Pierces have a farm background but did not begin their current enterprise of raising Boer goats until 2006. They raise approximately 30 animals per year on their five-acre operation. Some of the does are sold for meat while others are sold as breeding stock or to become show goats. The goats have two breeding cycles per year and usually have twins and triplets. They reach 65-70 pounds within four to five months. Besides rearing goats, the Pierces also raise rabbits and bobwhite quail.

To improve their farming operation, the Pierces asked for assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the New Castle Conservation District. To improve overall drainage on the property, an existing ditch was redone and a new culvert pipe installed. Existing pastures were rejuvenated using a combination of warm and cool season grasses and milk vetch to provide for both grazing and hay production. The milk vetch will continue to grow through the winter months.

A rotational grazing program also was put into place with new fencing and two animal watering devices to make water accessible from Union Ridge Farms’ four pastures. The goats are rotated through the four pastures every 10-20 days. This gives the first pasture 30-60 days to rest and recover. Since installing these conservation practices in the fall of 2013, the Pierces have seen a great improvement in their operation, pasture quality and animal health. Beyond help the Pierces have gotten from NCCD and USDA, the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Service has also provided invaluable assistance and advice for their farming operation.

The Pierces have hosted two goat seminars at their farm and two at the Southern States farm store in Middletown. They are also involved in a de-wormer study being conducted by Delaware State University based on pumpkin seed – trying to find natural methods to de-worm the goats. Ultimately, the Pierces would like to add more acreage to their farm to increase the number of goats they can raise.

The Pierces were also recently honored as minority farmers of the year in Delaware by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service with a featured article in Minority Farmer magazine.

Media Contacts: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902, or Rick Mickowski, New Castle Conservation District, at 302-832-3100 ext. 113.

Vol. 45, No. 190

New Delaware study points to benefits of irrigation

DOVER — Irrigation can increase grain production and profitability even in a near-ideal growing season, a new survey of Delaware cropland shows.

Delaware farm fields that used irrigation in 2013 produced 27 percent more corn per acre on average than non-irrigated fields, according to new data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA.

Irrigated acres produced 40 bushels of corn per acre more than non-irrigated ones, or 189 bushels for irrigated land compared to 149 bushels for non-irrigated land, the survey shows.

“Irrigation is an incredibly valuable tool that can help increase economic stability and improve profits even in a record-setting corn yield year like 2013,” Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee said. “This data shows how an initial investment can make yields more predictable and let farmers influence production in periods of drought.”

Kee noted that irrigation also has environmental benefits, making crops more efficient in the uptake of nutrients so they don’t stay in the soil during dry weather and then add to nutrient loading during the wet fall and winter months.

The data is the first time Delaware has compared yields for irrigated and non-irrigated corn. Of the 174,000 acres harvested for corn for grain in 2013, 43 percent – or 75,000 acres – were irrigated, the data shows. About 57 percent, or 99,000 acres, were not irrigated.

Delaware corn producers saw a record average yield of 166 bushels per acre in 2013, beating the previous record of 162 bushels per acre, in 2000.

An innovative partnership now in its fourth year offers help to Delaware farmers who want to add new irrigation systems. The Delaware Rural Irrigation Program, or DRIP, offers no-interest loans to install new equipment in partnership with private lending institutions.

Eligible farmers must have been actively engaged for at least two years in growing and harvesting of cash crops, such as corn, soybeans, fruit and vegetables, in Delaware, and must own or lease the land to be irrigated.

The loan fund finances up to 25 percent of the total project cost, not to exceed $25,000, at zero interest for a term of no longer than seven years. Repayment of principal must begin in year three of the loan. Financing is limited to one project per farm each year.

DRIP loans can help farmers add new irriation systems, including center pivot, linear move, towable systems, span angle systems, corner arm systems, single phase systems or wells and filters associated with drip irrigation systems. All work must be performed by experienced and qualified contractors licensed in and located in Delaware.

Farmers interested in participating should contact James Pennewell at the Delaware Economic Development Office at 302-672-6807 or james.pennewell@delaware.gov. Applications should be submitted concurrently with approved bank financing. The loan application will be reviewed by DEDO Capital Resources staff with comment from the Department of Agriculture.

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Delaware corn for grain, 2013

Irrigated: 77,000 acres planted … 75,000 acres harvested … 189 bushels/acre yield

Non-irrigated: 103,000 acres planted … 99,000 acres harvested … 149 bushels/acre yield

Total: 180,000 acres planted … 174,000 acres harvested … 166 bushels/acre yield

Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service

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Dan Shortridge
Chief of Community Relations
Delaware Department of Agriculture

Statement on USDA Report Showing Positive Impact of Farming Practices in Chesapeake Bay Region

DOVER — Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee released the following statement regarding today’s report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing significant environmental improvements due to farmers’ work in the Chesapeake Bay region. The report states that cropland productivity in the Chesapeake Bay region is on the increase, while nutrient runoff from nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as sediment loss, are decreasing.

“Improving our environment and water quality has long been our goal in Delaware, with the First State’s work in nutrient management on the leading edge,” Gov. Markell said. “We recognized early on the importance of a partnership between farmers and the state to reducing environmental impact, and our farmers have stepped up to the challenge. Their work is paying off, as we see today. Our farmers should be applauded for their work using the latest conservation techniques that will benefit all Delawareans.”

“I often say that farmers are the first environmentalists, and that becomes especially clear when we look at this report,” Secretary Kee said. “There’s no one closer to the land and more in tune with the environment than Delaware farmers. While there’s still plenty of work to be done, science showed us the path forward 15 years ago, and science is now telling us that our farmers have done a great job and are committed to this task.”