Beef cattle lead the pack of U.S. agricultural commodities, and California can boast the top-five agricultural counties in the United States. Those are just a couple of the facts included in a new set of state fact sheets from USDA, which provide national and state-by-state information on population, income, education, employment, federal funds, organic agriculture, farm characteristics, farm financial indicators, top commodities, and exports.
Among the top-five agricultural commodities in 2010, the report lists cattle and calves as number-one, accounting for 16.4 percent of the total value of U.S. ag products. Corn is second, at 14.2 percent, followed by soybeans, dairy products and broilers, at 10.6 percent, 10 percent and 7.5 percent of the total respectively.
Soybeans and soy products topped the list of export commodities in 2010, with live animals and meat in the fourth spot with a value of $8.9 billion.
The top five U.S. counties for agricultural sales in 2007 were Fresno, Tulare, Kern, Merced and Monterey, all in California.
The data reveal some interesting economic trends in rural America and comparisons with urban economies. Between 1980 and 2011, for example, the U.S. population grew by 37 percent. Most of that growth was in urban areas, where the population grew 44 percent, compared with 12 percent in rural areas.
The report shows a significant gap in per-capita income, with rural Americans averaging $31,798 annually in 2010 compared with $41,546 for city folks. The poverty rate also is higher in rural areas, standing at 17.8 percent in 2010 compared with 14.8 percent in urban areas and 15.3 percent nationally.
Employment levels are, however, slightly better in rural areas. The rural unemployment rate in 2011 stood at 8.4 percent, compared with 9 percent for urban areas and 8.9 percent nationally.
Agricultural land accounted for 40.8 percent of total land area in the United States in 2007, down from 42.2 percent in 1997. Pasture land accounted for 44.3 percent of the total agricultural land in 2007, up from 41.7 percent in 1997.
The education level of rural Americans has improved over the past few decades, while still lagging behind the national averages. In 1980, 41.8 percent of rural Americans did not complete high school. That percentage dropped to 17.6 percent by 2010, according to the report. Nationally the figure was 33.5 percent in 1980 and 15 percent in 2010. The percentage of rural Americans completing some college grew from 12.4 in 1980 to 28.1 in 2010, and the number completing college improved from 10.6 percent in 1980 to 15.1 percent in 2010.
Family farms still dominate U.S. agriculture. As of 2007, operations listed as individual or family sole proprietorship accounted for 86.5 percent of all U.S. farms. Family held corporations accounted for 3.9 percent, partnerships for 7.9 percent, non-family corporations for 0.5 percent and others such as cooperatives, estates, trusts or institutional ownership accounted for 1.3 percent.
Read the full report online from USDA.