Farm numbers remain steady in Virginia, down across U.S.

Farm number hold steady in Virginia despite drop across the U.S.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:30 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The USDA has released its Farms and Land in Farms 2022 Summary report which tracks the number of farms and amount of farm land across the U.S.

Nationwide 9,350 farms were lost and farmland decreased by two million acres over the last year, but in Virginia things held steady with the number of farms remaining around 41,500.

The Virginia Farm Bureau said this is welcome news as the state’s farm numbers have been declining since 2012. It said that the diversity of agriculture operations in Virginia is one reason why it has fared better than most other states.

“The highs don’t get quite so high and the valleys don’t get quite so low when you’re assessing the economic returns that are coming back to these farms. They’re able to weather bumps better than if they were in a state or community that was focused primarily on a handful of crops,” said Tony Banks senior assistant director of agriculture, development, and innovation for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Banks said while the pause in the loss of farm numbers is good news it may be just that, a pause as overall the state still appears to be headed on a downward trajectory when it comes to the amount of farmland. He said there are a handful of reasons for this.

“Our population continues to grow, business continues to grow in Virginia, and so factors like those put pressure on farmland for development uses. We are also experiencing a lot of competition with solar utilities, farmers are out there competing for farmland with the solar facilities,” he said.

However, with other states losing farms at a greater than Virginia, Banks said that some market opportunities may open for farmers across the state.

“It may create additional market opportunities for grain. Virginia is not a large grain-producing state but those losses in acreage elsewhere may play a role in the supply of corn and soybeans and other inputs we use to feed the livestock and poultry industry here in Virginia,” he said.

As the amount of farmland across the U.S. continues to decline Banks said that agriculture will need to adapt.

“There’s increased interest in controlled environment agriculture or indoor agriculture. That will certainly play a role going forward for traditional grain crops and soybeans. Technology is what’s going to allow us to provide more food with less farmland,” he said.

The USDA report also showed that West Virginia was the only state in the country that saw its number of farms increase over the last year going from 22,300 to 22,500.