Census finds women are decision-makers on more than half of U.S. farms

Recently released findings from the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture revealed that 36% of American farmers and ranchers are women, and 56% of all U.S. farming operations have at least one female decision-maker.

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The census, which was conducted in early 2018 and focused on production in 2017, found that the number of male producers decreased 1.7%, to 2.17 million, since 2012, while the number of female producers increased nearly 27%, to 1.23 million.

In Virginia, the number of male producers dropped 4.8% to 45,085, and the number of female producers increased 18% to 25,509 over the same period.

“Females have always been involved in farming operations, and now these census findings validate their importance on Virginia farms,” said Whitney Perkins, a commodity specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. She also helps with her family’s beef and hay farm in Louisa County.

Counties with the highest numbers of female producers were Rockingham, 1,215; Augusta, 1,036; Loudoun, 961; Fauquier, 856; and Washington, 772. Counties with the most farms where a woman was the principal producer were Loudoun, 725; Rockingham, 674; Augusta, 648; Fauquier, 615; and Bedford, 487.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that farms with women making decisions tend to be smaller than average in both acres and value of production. Male producers reported higher rates of involvement in land use and crop and livestock decisions, while female producers were most involved in day-to-day business decisions, as well as recordkeeping and financial management.

The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. NASS sends census questionnaires to nearly 3 million potential farm and ranch households.

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