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Farmland expands in Yates, decreases in Schuyler

TRI-COUNTY AREA—The recently released 2007 Agricultural Census shows that both the number of farms and acreage of farms in Schuyler County has decreased since 2002, but Yates County agriculture has grown.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Ag Statistic Service recently released the 2007 Census of Agriculture. The census is conducted once every five years and is considered the most comprehensive and accurate assessment of American agriculture. According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, “It’s also a set of benchmarks against which this Department must measure and demonstrate its performance to agriculture and the taxpayer.”
Yates County stands out as one of the top agricultural growth counties in New York state. While statewide there was a loss of 903 farms (2.3 percent) and 486,226 acres (6.3 percent), Yates County saw a dramatic increase of 142 farms (20 percent) from 722 in 2002 to 864 in 2007 and farm acreage increased by over 11,000 acres (10 percent) from 115,113 acres in 2002 to 126,118 acres in 2007.
The average farm size in Schuyler County has shrunk from 182 acres to 168. According to the census, farmland in the county decreased by 7,479 acres, 10 percent, in the five year span. The current amount of acreage being 66,368 acres of farmland in Schuyler. The total harvested cropland went from 28,302 acres to 30,540 acres. The statewide average of farms lost was 2.3 percent, with a total of 903 farms gone since 2002. The statewide average of acreage lost was 6.3 percent, or 486,226 total acres.
Danielle Hautaniemi, director of planning development for the Schuyler County Cornell Cooperative Extension, said this is likely because many farmers have been moving towards specialty crops, such as pasture based. However, she said the over all decrease does warrant watching.
“I didn’t get the sense farms are losing profits,” said Hautaniemi.
Bret Chedzoy, forester for the CCE, said he found it surprising that the number of farms has decreased. He added that farms have been consolidating, but that a lot of fallow land was now being used.
“Anything the landowner is willing to lease is being leased,” he said.
Yates County follows more closely the trends found nationwide. “The 2007 Census counted 2,204,792 farms in the United States, a net increase of 75,810 farms. Nearly 300,000 new farms have begun operation since the last census in 2002. Compared to all farms nationwide, these new farms tend to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also work off-farm.”
Yates County has the highest percentage of agriculture land (58.3 percent) of any county in the state comprising 126,118 acres of active agricultural land. The economic impact and growth of all the agricultural businesses is staggering. In 2002, the estimated market value of land and buildings was estimated at $204,377,000. By 2007, the value grew to $358,822,000, a 76 percent increase ($154,445,000).
The 864 farm business locations in the county are estimated to generate $88,382,000 per year, a 75.4 percent increase from 2002 sales of $50,373,000 per year. The average sales per farm also grew from $69,769 in 2002 to $102,294 in 2007.
In Schuyler County, the combined market value of everything produced in the county increased by 85 percent, from $17,911,000 in 2002 to $33,059,000 in 2007. According to the census the average sales per farm increased by 90 percent, from $44,225 to $83,907.
Some of the kinds of crops that either increased or had more farms produce them included soybeans, vegetables and orchards. In 2002 there were 60 orchards with 1,212 acres. The number of orchards increased by 18 and the acreage increased to 1,935, a 59.6 percent increase. The increase in acreage of vegetables harvested also increased by 55.6 percent, from 63 to 98.
The number of farms harvesting vegetables went from 15 to 21. The number of farms harvesting soybeans went from three to 10. Schuyler County is also number three in the state for the quantity of sheep and lambs raised on farms. It is also number seven in the state for grape production and 44 in the country.
The number of farms harvesting barley for grain, dry edible beans and forage have all decreased. Seven farms used to harvest barley in 2002 but now there are only four. The total acreage shrunk 68 percent, from 198 acres to 63 acres. There also used to be 250 farms harvesting forage, hay, grass silage and greenchop, but in 2007 there were 221.
The total acreage decreased from 17,871 to 16,064, a 10 percent decrease. Schuyler County had two farms harvesting edible dry beans, but now has one. Hautaniemi noted that the amount of government payments to farms has also decreased. In 2002, Schuyler farms received $569,000 but in 2007 farms received $475,000.
Grapes are an important ag sector in Yates, producing fruit for wine production, juice and fresh table grape markets. Grape acreage increased from 5,387 to 6,270 acres on 168 farms. The value of fruit sold in the county (largely made up of grapes, excluding wine market value) increased dramatically from $7,716,000 to $17,064,000, nearly a $10 million increase (121 percent).
Yates County is also one of the largest organic farm counties in the state. In 2007, there were 49 organic farms utilizing over 5,500 acres of cropland and pastureland, generating sales estimated at $2,720,000.
The number of vegetable farms also increased from 79 to 110. However, sales decreased from $6,367,000 to $4,048,000, most likely due to the reduction of processing vegetable contracts. This was somewhat offset by the increase of greenhouse/nursery farms from 50 to 52 and an increase of sales from $1,225,000 to $1,600,000. The increase in dairy farms and crop acreage may also explain the reduction in vegetable farm sales.
The current agricultural census, and past ones, are viewable online at http://www.agcensus.

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