USDA: 2012 Agricultural Census shows decline in irrigated acres in the West #ColoradoRiver #COdrought

Crop circles -- irrigated agriculture
Crop circles — irrigated agriculture

Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:

The 2012 Census of Agriculture is the 28th Federal census of agriculture and the fourth conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census conducted the census of agriculture for 156 years (1840-1996). The 1997 Appropriations Act contained a provision that transferred the responsibility for the census of agriculture to NASS.

The history of collecting data on U.S. agriculture dates back as far as President George Washington, who kept meticulous statistical records describing his own and other farms. In 1791, President Washington wrote to farmers requesting information on land values, crop acreages, crop yields, livestock prices, and taxes. Washington compiled the results on an area extending roughly 250 miles from north to south and 100 miles from east to west which today lies in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, where most of the young country’s population lived. In effect, Washington’s inquiry was an attempt to fulfill the need for sound agricultural data for a nation that was heavily reliant on the success of agriculture. Such informal inquiries worked while the Nation was young, but were insufficient as the country expanded.

From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

The U.S. Department of Agriculture brought a bounty of farm data to the public market on Friday when it released the 2012 agriculture census.

Published every five years, the census is a trove of information down to the county level on production practices, farm economics, and rural demographics. Being a water news site, Circle of Blue is interested in the irrigation trends.

On the whole, irrigation is declining in the dry West and making inroads in the humid East.
Since 1997, irrigated acreage is down 11 percent in California, 20 percent in New Mexico, and 25 percent in Colorado. Over the same period, irrigated acreage shot up 49 percent in Mississippi, 71 percent in Indiana, and 212 percent in Tennessee – albeit each from a much lower starting base.

Irrigation also adds value. Only 14 percent of farms are irrigated, but they account for 39 percent of the market value of farm sales.

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