by Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury
March 19, 2023
The number of farms and farm acreage in Virginia remained flat in 2022 despite small overall decreases in both farms and farmland nationally, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to the USDA’s most recent Farms and Land in Farms report, the total number of farms in Virginia remained stable at 41,500 in 2022 — the same as in 2021. Farm acreage also didn’t change between 2021 and 2022, remaining at 7.7 million acres overall.
“We’re holding steady,” said Tony Banks, a senior assistant director with the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
However, Banks said he doesn’t believe the lack of change in 2022 reflects the reality on the ground of long-term losses in Virginia farmland. Since 2015, the Virginia Farm Bureau says Virginia farmland has dropped from 8.1 million to 7.7 million acres, with 3,200 farms lost.
“We certainly see farmland for sale every day riding around the state,” he said. “We face tremendous pressure from developers both for residential and commercial properties, highway construction and solar facilities.”
“These level numbers aside, the statistical reporting may just be an anomaly for us, because we’re still losing,” he added.
Herman Ellison, the Virginia statistician for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, said the farm and farmland estimates were based on survey data from Virginia farmers.
“The farmers in [Virginia] indicated no changes based on the farmers surveys,” he said in an email.
However, he noted, the Virginia Farm Bureau is “in tune with the [Virginia] farmers.”
Banks said much of the concern revolves around the loss of medium-sized farms in Virginia, or those that have roughly $500,000 to $1 million in annual revenue. Those “are disappearing more quickly than the large farms and the small farms,” he said.
Virginia data is in line with what the USDA found for much of the Mid-Atlantic in 2022: Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania also saw no change in number of farms. West Virginia gained about 200 farms.
Overall, USDA reported the number of farms across the U.S. dropped 0.46% in 2022, from 2,012,050 to 2,002,700. Farm acreage fell 0.21%, from 8,953,000 acres to 8,934,000 acres.
“Even if we didn’t lose any farms, any acreage, that pause or that slowdown in the rate of loss that’s being reported, that’s a welcome breather,” said Banks. “We’ll see what the numbers look like next year.”