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Montana Agriculture Keeps Growing

Posted by Eric Sommer, Montana State Statistician, National Agricultural Statistics Service in Conservation
Feb 21, 2017
Big Sky Montana could be Big Sweet Montana. Check back next Thursday for another fascinating look at another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture!
Big Sky Montana could be Big Sweet Montana. Check back next Thursday for another fascinating look at another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

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.

When you think of Montana agriculture, wheat and cattle come to mind. And why shouldn’t they? After all, our state ranks third in wheat production and tenth in cattle and calves inventory, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. That year, the combined market value of ag products sold for grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas was $1,787,162,000 and cattle and calves was $1,783,908,000. Montana’s total market value of agricultural products sold per farm was $151,031; which was up 59 percent from the previous Census of Agriculture in 2007, while the U.S. average was up 39 percent.

We have 28,008 farms and ranches in our state with an average size of 2,134 acres, which is down 5 percent from 2007.  Female principal operators of farms and ranches account for 15 percent of the total principal operators in the state while American Indians account for just 5 percent. Like most other states, the average age of our producers continues to increase to 58.9 years, climbing 1.1 years from 2007.

Montana ranked second in barley production according the 2012 census. Our farmers produce both malt and feed barley. Most of the larger brewers have a presence in Montana, contracting many acres of the finest malt barley available.

Irrigation is important in the western states and Montana is no different with 9,451 operations irrigating 1.9 million acres in 2012 down 10 percent from 5 years ago. Our growers produce many irrigated crops. Among irrigated crops, our growers harvested 45,807 acres of sugar beets in 2012, ranking sixth in the nation.

Organic producers also take advantage of Montana’s growing climate and seasons. The 148 organic operations reporting organic production recorded $16.5 million in total value of sales during 2012.

Pulse crop production in Montana continues to grow in importance as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage comes back into production and producers switch to continuous cropping programs.

And last, but definitely not least, Montana also produces honey. The value of Montana’s honey production in 2012 was $13.4 million. Producers reported 119,002 bee colonies in the state up 8 percent from 5 years ago.

Category/Topic: Conservation

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