Fewer Women Farmers in U.S., but More in Texas

Fewer Women Farmers in U.S., but More in Texas

While the number of women farmers nationally is in decline, in Texas, their ranks are swelling, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture.

The number of women farmers in Texas is increasing, bucking the national trend, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture. 

The number of female principal farm operators in Texas increased 10 percent between 2007 and 2012, while the number of female principal operators across the country declined, according to the data released last week. 

About 38,500 farms in Texas had female principal operators in 2012, an increase from 35,000 in 2007. Meanwhile, the number of farms in Texas with male principal operators declined, as did the overall number of farms in the state.

Jason Johnson, associate professor at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Stephenville, said that the growing number of female principal farm operators in Texas isn’t surprising because of increased participation among women in agriculture and because more women are being left in charge of farms after their husbands die.

“Such a large percentage of farm women end up managing the operation simply because women live longer,” said Johnson, the Texas coordinator for Annie’s Project, a series of classes that teach women about farm management. (The next series begins in April in Georgetown.)

The average age of farmers has been increasing for years. It was higher in Texas in 2012 than in the nation as a whole – 60, compared with 58 for the country.

Across the country and in Texas, women farmers are a minority. Fourteen percent of U.S. farms in 2012 had principal operators who were women, a percentage that has not changed since 2007. The percentage of farms in Texas with female principal operators increased from 14 percent to 15 percent during that same period.

The number of white farmers declined in Texas and in the United States between 2007 and 2012, while the number of Hispanic, Asian and black farmers increased. 

The data released so far also shows that in both Texas and the nation, farmers in all demographic groups saw a significant increase in income, on average, despite record drought conditions in Texas. The market value of all crops sold in Texas jumped from $21.1 billion in 2007 to $25 billion in 2012; for livestock in particular, the market value increased from $14.4 billion in 2007 to $18 billion in 2012, even though the drought caused Texas to lose some 15 percent of its cattle herd between January 2011 and January 2013.

Carmen Fenton, spokeswoman for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, said cattle prices rose in Texas because many ranchers sold off large portions of their herd and supply diminished. Many Texas food businesses are still dealing with record-high beef prices, although ranchers are beginning to build their herds again as the drought's impact has lessened, from affecting nearly all of Texas to just about half the state.  

The preliminary report included demographic information on principal farm operators, but not on other farm operators. That information will be included with the release of the final report, which is expected in May. Data will also be released for each individual county in Texas and other states.

Number of farms
 20072012Percent change
Number of farms (U.S.)2,204,7922,109,363-4.3
Number of farms (Texas)247,437248,8100.6
Market value of products sold
 20072012
U.S.
Total market value of agricultural products$297.2 billion$394.6 billion
Total market value (crops)$143.7 billion$212.4 billion
Total market value (livestock)$153.6 billion$182.2 billion
Texas
Total market value of agricultural products$21 billion$25.4 billion
Total market value (crops)$6.6 billion$7.4 billion
Total market value (livestock)$14.4 billion$18 billion
Number of principal farm operators, by gender
 20072012
U.S.
Total operators2,204,7922,109,363
Male operators (percent of total)1,898,583 (86.1%)1,821,094 (86.3%)
Female Operators (percent of total)306,209 (13.9%)288,269 (13.7%)
Texas
Total operators247,437248,810
Male operators (percent of total)212,426 (85.6%)210,359 (84.5%)
Female operators (percent of total)35,011 (14.1%)38,451 (15.5%)
Number of principal farm operators of Spanish, Hispanic or Latino origin
 20072012Percent change
Operators (U.S.)55,57067,01420.6
Operators (Texas)20,35123,68916.4
Number of principal farm operators, by race
 20072012
U.S.
American Indian/Alaska native34,70637,857
Asian11,21413,699
Black/African American30,59933,372
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander1,3561,468
White2,114,3252,012,674
More than one race12,59210,293
Texas
American Indian/Alaska native2,1552,694
Asian561719
Black/African American6,1248,551
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander5927
White236,568235,448
More than one race1,9701,371
Source: 2012 Census of Agriculture Preliminary Report, issued February 2014

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/02/26/us-census-agriculture/.

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