Maine Agriculture Shows Strength and Potential for Growth

5/11/2014

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) announced 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 outsized 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 Gov. 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 percent of farms) and produced 90 percent of all gross sales.

From 2007-2012:
 
  • The market value of Maine's agricultural products increased 24 percent, from $617,190,000 to $763,062,000
  • Harvested cropland increased from 2007 to 2012. The number of farms grew from 5,189 to 5,325 (acres increased from 393,738 to 400,960). Cropland declined 10 percent from 529,253 to 477,343 acres, replaced by harvested hayland, increased pastureland and farm-managed woodlots.
  • Irrigated land increased by 47 percent, with the number of farms increasing from 901 to 1,365 (20,994 to 30,887 acres).
  • Vegetables harvested for sale increased by 9 percent, 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 increases year-round vegetable production).
  • Aquaculture: The value of sales increased by 185 percent (from $26,300,000 to $75,107,000).
  • Ag labor: The number of operations with hired workers increased 28 percent (going from 1,886 to 2,415), with workers hired more than 150 days increasing 29 percent (the number of workers hired for less than 150 days declined by 13 percent).
  • The number of maple producers increased by 10 percent (from 468 to 517) and the number of taps went from 1,487,473 to 1,884,466 (increase of 27 percent).
  • Agritourism: Income from farm-related, agritourism and recreational services increased 78 percent (from $1,012,000 to $1,803,000). Participating farms increased by 141 percent (112 to 270 farms).
For more information about the census and access to the 2012 report, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.
 
For more information about the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, go to http://www.maine.gov/acf.