Data Shows Increase in Number of Farms, But Lower Market Value

April 11, 2019, 1:36 PM HST (Updated April 11, 2019, 1:36 PM)
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its 2017 Census of Agriculture on Thursday, April 11, 2019, indicating the total number of farms in Hawai‘i increased by about 5% since the last census in 2012, while the total market value dropped from $661 million to about $564 million during the same period. A significant portion of the drop in total market value may be attributed to the end of the sugar operations on Maui in 2017 and the decline in the value of the seed corn industry in Hawai‘i. However, there are some bright spots for Hawai‘i agriculture in the report.

Data from the census show the total number of Hawai‘i farms rose from 7,000 in 2012 to 7,328 in 2017. The greatest increase in the number of farms came from small farms between one to nine acres. In addition, the number of farms with sales of $25,000 to $500,000 or more increased.

The Census data also indicates:

  • Vegetables, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes sales in 2017 was about $85 million;
  • Organic food sales rose from $6 million in 2012 to $15 million in 2017;
  • Fruits, tree nuts and berries had sales decreased from $152 million in 2012 to $144 million in 2017;
  • Aquaculture sales increased from $57 million in 2012 to $74 million in $2017;
  • Poultry and egg sales rose from $6.5 million to $8 million; and
  • Nursery and greenhouse product sales increased from $80 million in 2012 to $100 million in 2017
  • Direct sales to consumers rose from $13 million in 2012 to $28 million in 2017.

“The data in the agricultural census gives us a good snapshot of what was happening in agriculture in 2017,” said Gov. David Ige. “These numbers should reinvigorate all efforts to continue to increasing Hawai‘i’s food security and self-sufficiency.”

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The census also showed the average age of a Hawai‘i farmer was 60.1 years in 2017 compared to 58.7 years in 2012.

“While the average age of farmers is slightly older, the increase in the number of new farmers is heartening,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser. “We encourage local consumers to continue to increase their support of Hawai‘i farmers and ranchers and buy local because it really does have an impact on our community and lifestyle.”

It is important to note that besides the closure of the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company operations on Maui in 2017, seed corn values dropped from $241 million in the 2011/2012 season to $121 million during the 2017/2018 season, which contributed to the drop in the state’s overall market value of agriculture.

Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The publication also provides new insights into the agriculture industry reporting new or expanded data on demographics of farm producers such as Male Producers, Producers with Military Service, Young Producers, and New/Beginning Producers.  Farmers and ranchers can designate multiple people per farm as principals and new distinction of involvement in decision making.

To be counted in the federal census, a farm must have sold or had the potential to sell at least $1,000 worth of agricultural products.

The Hawai‘i State survey questionnaire is unique because it specifically reports and provides data for Macadamia Nut, Papaya, Passion Fruit and Taro, Bananas, Coffee, Pineapple and Ginger Root.

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