Hobby farmers may skew agriculture statistics

FILE - This Jan. 30, 2014 file photo shows a farmer taking advantage of dry weather to till a field in preparation for spring planting near England, Ark. Congress has given its final approval to a sweeping five-year farm bill that provides food for the needy and subsidies for farmers. Ending years of political battles, the Senate vote Tuesday sends the measure to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) – A farm organization official says an increase in “hobby farmers” may eventually skew the numbers in the Census of Agriculture, which gathers information on the nation’s farms and the people who run them.

Roger Hadley, Allen County Farm Bureau president, told The Journal Gazette the number of farms in some counties in northeast Indiana may have increased, but the boost is misleading.

“There are folks with a few acres with horses or vegetables that are being counted in the census data,” he said. “It’s something they do on the side and it’s not their main job. They’re probably not what you think of when you hear the word farm,” said Hadley.

The latest census found fewer farms in Indiana than five years earlier, but the farms were slightly larger, a trend seen nationwide. The census found there were 58,695 farms in Indiana in 2012, down from 60,936 in 2007, but a smaller decrease in farm land. There were 14,720,396 acres of farm land in Indiana in 2012 compared with 14,773184 in 2007. The average size of a farm increased to 251 acres, up from 242 acres five years earlier.

Hadley said consolidation and retirements contributed to a decline in farm totals, but the decrease probably would have been more had smaller farms not been counted. The census showed Indiana ranked 10 among states in agricultural sales at $11.2 billion.


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