Craven County 2022 Census Data Summary

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The USDA 2022 Census of Agriculture data shows an overview of Craven County. The data should be interpreted as a snap shot of agriculture and serves to show trends and changes over time. This data is useful in planning but some of the items are often misinterpreted. Too, some data is not reported at all. Below are some the items that need to be understood to accurately understand the report.

  • The description of “farms” or “land in farms” can increase or decrease simply based upon classification of a farm. A “farm” as defined by this report is any land that produced and sold over $1,000 of agricultural products. Using this definition means that land that has not been in production for many years but was returned to production will increase the number of farms. Similarly, land that has been in some conservation program but recently removed in order to produce an agricultural product will increase this value. In rare cases, land may be cleared so that farming could occur. Simply realize that this particular section of the summary can vary dramatically, depending upon the economic situation when the survey occurs.
  • Government payment varies according to commodity price, government policy (as in Market Facilitation payment provided under President Trump in response to tariffs and trade interruptions from China), as well as funding appropriation. Additionally, this report does not differentiate between payments made directly to the grower as a program effort and those made to the grower for conservation efforts to protect soil or water quality. Thus, this number will vary greatly. In one is interested in whether these payments were made directly to the grower, landowner or for conservation efforts, contact the USDA Farm Service Agency.
  • “Farms by Value of Sales” is frequently misinterpreted. In this case for Craven County, there are 292 farmlands designated as farms. Of those 292, 110 of them produce a commodity value less than $2,500 and 71 of them produce $100,000 or more. This report does not reflect the farmer income. Rather it reports the value of commodities produced on the farmland. More often than not, the higher sales values reflects larger size of the farmland. However, another possibility is simply a higher value crop.
  • Similar to the above explanation, “Farms by Size” reflects farmland, not the producer. Thus, almost 50% of the farmland in Craven  County falls between 10 and 179 acres is size.
  • “Producers” as defined by this report is essentially anyone involved with farming activates or members of the family/household. The definition provided by the USDA states that a producer “may be the owner, a member of the owner’s household, a hired manager, a tenant, a renter, or a sharecropper”. As such, this number generally reflects a high number. Too, the number of producers reported may or may not meet the legal or IRS definition of a “farmer”. As such, if one desire the actual number farming operations within a county, one needs to request such in writing from the local USDA Farm Service Agency.
  • While internet access for farming is reported at 77%, one must realize that a majority do not have access to cable or fiber-optic speed. DSL and/or satellites provide internet connection for many. This is critical because many of the new equipment manufacturers include functions, monitoring, and reporting that relies upon internet or strong cell signals to work. Many rural area have neither.
  • The value of commodities sold generally is documented and reported accurately. As example, grain sales is reported as $32 million.. This value changes between $30-$35 million annually depending upon yield and price but this value is a good average. However, some crops are not tracked as vigorously as grains or may not be reported at all. Peanuts are not within this estimate. Vegetable sold, if sold directly to consumers, relies upon self-reporting and may be misrepresented. Simply realize that these figures reflect a “best guess” or self-reported value.
  • “Top Crops in Acres” may or may not be accurate. For Craven, the majority of crops are listed as soybean, corn, cotton, wheat and forage. Note however that wheat is listed at less than 3,000 acres yet tobacco acres reported are 4,774. Tobacco should have been reported as the fourth largest but is not. Similarly, peanut production in this area far exceeds wheat and forage  production both is terms of acres produced as well as value sold. However, peanuts are another crop that this report does not include. So, this particular category summary is interesting but one should use extreme caution using this data to make decisions.

In summary, these reports are used to compare past data to present to identify trends. They are helpful in long-term planning as long as one realizes that actual data is incredibly fluid. Commodity price and yield can change dramatically within any year! It is also critical to realize what is not reported within the census. As noted earlier, this does not identify how many farming operations exists nor the average size of these production operations. Rather, it is a snapshot of what exist within the county.

Download the 2022 Craven County Summary

Written By

Mike Carroll, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionMike CarrollCounty Extension Director, Field Crops & CRD Call Mike Email Mike N.C. Cooperative Extension, Craven County Center
Posted on Apr 5, 2024
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