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Ag Census preliminary figures released


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- Preliminary data has been released from the Agriculture Census compiled over the past year. Some of that data has state officials looking for more answers.

Wisconsin Ag Secretary Ben Brancel says there are some surprises and some concerns, including the fact there are fewer farms now than during the last ag census. “The census tells us that we’re down in total numbers of farming operations by 8,000, so that we have just under 70,000 farms presently on our landscape.”

Brancel says they will be looking closer at certain areas of the census because a couple categories don’t add up. One of them is the number of acres removed from production agriculture. “Land diverted from agriculture use to other uses was down by about 28,000 acres, and so we were a little surprised when the ag census documents suggest that we’re down by 600,000 acres actively involved in agriculture production, so we have some analysis work to do.”

If you’re guessing there are more very large farms and fewer medium and small farms, you’re right. Brancel was disappointed in the shrinking number of small farms that typically work with farmer’s markets and farm-to-school food programs. He was not surprised by the growing number of mega-farms. “It is up by about 15 percent, and it’s up to about 23-hundred farms that are now in that really large category. Every other category went down in the number of farms.”

The data will be analysed by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and other agencies. Additional reports with more detailed information are expected in April. After that, agencies like the University of Wisconsin Extension can use the data to direct their programs and help area farmers.

(Listen to our interview with Ben Brancel on our website, here.)