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.
Nothing can compare to the economic impact agriculture has in Virginia. 2012 Census of Agriculture counted more than 46,000 farms, which cover more than 8.3 million acres of farmland in the commonwealth. That’s nearly a third of our entire state! In fact, according to Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agriculture is our state’s largest industry.
In the most recent census, Virginia farmers reported selling more than $3.7 billion worth of agricultural products. Of these, most came from the livestock sector. Broiler chickens were the top commodity sold in 2012, the year of the latest Census of Agriculture. That year, growers sold $638.3 million worth of broiler hens.
Cattle is another big commodity in Virginia. In 2012 our farmers and rancher sold more than $430 million worth of cattle and calves. And, as can be expected, with livestock you also get livestock products, such as milk. In 2012, farmers sold nearly $347.2 million worth of cow milk in Virginia.
Our crop sales, which amounted to nearly $1.4 billion in 2012 are also nothing to sneeze at. In Virginia, soybeans are our top crop. Nearly 580,000 acres of farmland are dedicated to this crop, with Virginia farmers selling more than $300 million worth of soybeans in 2012.
Not surprisingly, tobacco is a major crop in Virginia. While this industry is not as big as it once was, Virginia still ranks as one of the top 5 states for tobacco. In 2012, our farmers sold $109 million worth of leaf tobacco from their farms.
Virginia farmers also grow plenty of edible fruits and vegetables. According to the 2012 Census, our farmers harvested more than 5,000 acres of potatoes and more than 3,000 acres of tomatoes, which are key vegetable crops in the commonwealth. On the fruit side, apples are the largest commodity in Virginia. Our growers harvested nearly 12,000 acres of apples in 2012. And, largely in thanks to our growing wine industry, grapes are now one of the top agricultural commodities in Virginia. Our farmers dedicated more than 4,300 acres to grape production in 2012.
There are plenty of other facts about Virginia agriculture that I could mention here, but I’ll let you check them out yourself. You can turn to the Virginia volume of the 2012 Census of Agriculture, or get the numbers using our Quick Stats database.