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Family Farms Flourish in Sweet Grown Alabama

Posted by Cynthia Price, Alabama State Statistician, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in Research and Science
Jan 09, 2020
A cotton field in Alabama
Fluffy cotton bolls bloom around Alabama during harvest season. The state’s agricultural landscape is ever changing. Once known as a top cotton state, Alabama now ranks sixth in the nation in cotton sales. USDA Photo by Preston Keres

Families are the cornerstone of agriculture in Alabama (PDF, 947 KB) where 97% of farms counted in the recent 2017 Census of Agriculture are family owned. Although the number of farms in Alabama decreased 6% from 2012, the average size of farms increased 3%, mirroring a trend seen in states across the nation. With 73% of farms connected to the Internet, Alabama farms and ranches continue to reach others across the globe.

What does the 2017 Ag Census data tell us about farmers in Alabama? Although the average age of a farmer is 58 years old in this gulf state, 30% of all Alabama agricultural producers are new and beginning which is 3% higher than the national percentage. More than 4,000 farmers and ranchers in the state are black or African American – 6% of the state’s total and a higher portion than most states. Women make up 34% of the state’s nearly 65,000 farm operators. Thirteen percent of farmers in Alabama have military service compared to 11% of farmers in the United States.

Overall, livestock accounts for 80% of the total market value of agriculture products sold in the state. More than half of all farms in the state raise cattle, but the top livestock product by value of sales is poultry and poultry products. With over $4.2 billion in sales, poultry and eggs are Alabama’s top commodity and put the state at fourth out of all 50 states. The 2017 Census of Agriculture counted more than 209 million broiler chickens, 7.9 million layers, and 5.3 million pullets in Alabama.

Providing foodies with delicacies, Alabama ranks second in the U.S. for quail inventory at 1.4 million. For seafood lovers, Alabama’s aquaculture industry was ranked fourth in the nation in sales.

Peanut and cotton data in the 2017 Census of Agriculture continue to tell part of the ever-changing story of dynamic agriculture in Alabama. Although Alabama is known as the cotton state, it ranks sixth in the nation for cotton acreage. Alabama’s 700.3 million pounds of peanuts produced was the second highest in the nation in 2017.

Thank you to all of the producers who took the time to complete the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Without accurate numbers it is impossible to tell the true story of Alabama agriculture. To learn more about Alabama agriculture, see the 2017 Census of Agriculture state level data and the Alabama State Profile (PDF, 947 KB).

Alabama Farm Income and Expenses, 2012 and 2017 ($millions) chart
Alabama farm production expenses decreased 3% from 2012 to 2017 according to the latest Census of Agriculture data.
Category/Topic: Research and Science