Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Green Acres

Are you ready for your factoid of the day?

Between 2007 and 2012, the number of acres harvested for agricultural crops in Allegheny County increased by over 10%, the biggest percentage jump across the MSA. That and more fun stats from recently released Census of Agriculture statistics.


I personally wonder if the number of acres harvested in Allegheny County has ever increased in the past... in the 'modern' era that is.  I bet we have been on a downward slope since... forever?  And I'd be curious if anyone has specific insights into huge declines for Fayette and Westmoreland counties. 

12 Comments:

Anonymous The Wiz said...

Farmland in w Pa has been declining for several decades. Drive around Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and others and you will see thousands of acres of abandoned farmland that is reverting to forest. Lots of kids go off to college and don't return to rural areas. I've gone to a lot of landowner meetings and I am often among the youngest there.....and I just turned 60.

And if it accelerated recently in those two counties, could be because a lot of farmers got very wealthy from nat gas leases and royalties and now don't farm much at all.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 6:43:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

What? This is a recent rise in the number of acres harvested in Allegheny County... that means someone is farming much more, right? Would this mean farm land (within a convenient drive to/from markets like Pittsburgh) is becoming more valuable?

Additional thought: perhaps when we reassess property values, more people can see our growth and speculate over investing in it?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

So Wiz... you have formed a hypothesis that the development of shale gas in Pennsylvania is eviscerating the commonwealth's agricultural industries. I wonder if that displacement is taken into account in any of the economic impact studies?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 7:07:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

So Wiz... you have formed a hypothesis that the development of shale gas in Pennsylvania is eviscerating the commonwealth's agricultural industries. I wonder if that displacement is taken into account in any of the economic impact studies?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 7:07:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Farmers who got enough money from gas leases that they didn't need to farm anymore would just lease the ground if there was still a profit in farming it. The price of corn dropped a great deal in 2008 and didn't come back for a couple of years. It might have been a good time to sell to the developer. I'd guess that the development of suburbs and subdivisions is what is eating most of the ground with some of it reverting to forest or waste. It isn't going to into grazing land. I looked up the number of cows and those are way down also. Hogs are down also.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 9:03:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

that means someone is farming much more, right?

950 acres more. It's a lot of ground in a city, but it's still only 1.5 sections (square miles). I've got cousins who farm more ground that than. I don't think it's economically relevant so much as it is socially relevant.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 9:07:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Nebraska math?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 9:13:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

C B I think that the nat gas boom may have accelerated a process that has been under way for some time. Most farms are run by older men nearing retirement time. A big check from big oil just might move up that date by a couple of years. And leasing out farm land is not always an option when large numbers of farmers are retiring. Too much land available.
As for the increase in Allegheny, I would guess that the 'local' movement is spurring that. Restaurants like to advertise their use of local produce. That, and people more frequently going to local farm markets, drives up demand/price for local farmers.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 9:26:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Seems to me if that model is right (that retirements which were coming soon anyway were just accelerated forward), we should see a big slowdown in the rate soon as we get to the period when the retirements were supposed to happen anyway.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 1:03:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

BrianTH; keep in mind a lot of those farmers that are 'retiring' are actually in their 70s or even 80s. Farmers are tough guys that love their work and keep on farming after 'retiring.' But some are now cutting way back now that they can afford to. For example,instead farming a 100 acres and a 75 milk cow herd, they may have 5 acres tilled and couple beef cattle.

These are just my observations, may not be as wide spread as I think. Good area for some research.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 5:55:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

So those seem to me two different hypotheses (albeit not mutually exclusive). One hypothesis is that an upcoming event ("retirement") was just moved forward in time. Another hypothesis is that the effects of that event ("retirement") are now more significant in terms of acres being withdrawn from production post-retirement.

If the latter effect is also happening, it may well result in a more long-term increase in the annual rate of acres being withdrawn. But in turn that would mean Chris's gloss would be more accurate.

Thursday, May 08, 2014 8:39:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Overall, this is a drop of 30,000 acres and, at least in Nebraska, would be worth something upwards of $1,500* an acre even if it had no mineral rights and no potential as a subdivision, golf course, or to be some rich guy's horse "farm." I think retirements of farmers could have some effect on this to the extent that there are old guys farming land that it really isn't profitable to farm, but if somebody is closing up a real farm that provided an income to support a family*, it's got to be because there's more money in selling to a guy who wants to build a subdivision, a golf course, or some rich guy's horse "farm".

*Maybe that doesn't really exist in these parts and all the "farmers" have day jobs.

Thursday, May 08, 2014 9:18:00 AM  

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