Category Archives: farm statistics

The Earth’s Land Use (Cover) Breakdown from the FAO

The FAO has released a new database that summarizes land cover on our lovely planet, drawing from satellite and other types of data resources. Combining the sources of information available to us today in this way has never been done before and will help aid in assessing the future of food production and its sustainability. The database is called “Global Land Cover SHARE database”.

Next, is the general category breakdown from the report. It looks like we’ve paved over .6 percent of the Earth’s land surface. That is quite an Anthropocene feat.

The FAO’s new database includes eleven global land cover layers, and here are the percentages allocated to each one:

artificial surfaces (which cover 0.6 percent of the Earth’s surface)
bare soils (15.2 percent)
croplands (12.6 percent)
grasslands (13.0 percent)
herbaceous vegetation (1.3 percent)
inland water bodies (2.6 percent)
mangroves (0.1 percent)
shrub-covered areas (9.5 percent)
snow and glaciers (9.7 percent)
sparse vegetation (7.7 percent)
tree-covered areas (27.7 percent)

(source)

Smaller Farms Couldn’t Survive Without Off-Farm Income

Perhaps all small farms should be classified as hobby farms, because few could survive economically without off-farm incomes.

This is how the USDA sums it up:

● Median total household income among all farm households ($57,050) exceeded the median for all U.S. households ($50,054) in 2011.

● More than half of U.S. farms are very small, with annual sales under $10,000; the households operating these farms typically draw all of their income from off-farm sources.

● Median household income and income from farming increase with farm size, as defined by sales.

● The typical household operating the largest commercial farms earned about $380,000 in 2011, and most of that came from farming.

Certainly, these large farm incomes are dependent upon U.S. policy requiring taxpayer support. In my recent post about my observations from driving across Nebraska, I addressed the issue of long commutes by farm dwellers to their jobs and for their goods and services. With policy supporting the large farms, farms continue to get larger, so a side effect is that the fewer residents who remain in these rural communities have to commute further and further. It would seem that this is an unsustainable trend. I call this problem the human side of the equation, the part of the debate which is usually ignored by pundits and policy-makers.

3 Picks: Production Costs, Syrian Crisis, Australian Conundrum


Sydney Fish Market. Photo by Nathan Cooprider @Flickr CC.

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Net U.S. farm income in 2013 will be $120.6 billion, up 6 percent from 2012: “Total farm production expenses will increase 0.3 percent from the USDA’s February estimate to $354.2 billion, the highest level on record, in nominal and inflation-adjusted dollars. The agency said it expects rent, labor and feed prices to increase the most among farm expenses this year. Among farmer costs, feed, the biggest spending component, is projected to increase 3.7 percent from last year to $61.3 billion. Fertilizers will cost $28.2 billion this year, down 1 percent from last year, while seeds are up 4.9 percent, to $21.3 billion. ‘It’s important to note that while income numbers are staying up at nice levels, production costs are continuing to climb and climb,’ Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, said in a phone interview.”

2) Food Sellers are unwilling to sell to Syria: “Syria’s efforts to step up food purchases are being thwarted by sellers unwilling to risk delays in payments from frozen foreign bank accounts. Civil war and a deepening humanitarian crisis have prompted the government of President Bashar Assad to issue a series of tenders for sugar, wheat, flour and rice in recent weeks. The country needs to import around 2 million tons of wheat this year as civil war has sliced its crop to a near-30 year low at 1.5 million tons, less than half the pre-conflict average. State buyers said payment for purchases via tenders would be made from the government’s frozen accounts abroad with waivers obtained from countries that have imposed financial sanctions. But international traders are showing little enthusiasm for the proposed payment system. ‘This is too much of a big risk. The process of getting funds from the frozen accounts is too slow and complex to enable a rapid offer in a grain tender,’ one European trader told Reuters.”

3) Julian Cribb Gives Australians a Verbal Lashing About their food situation: “‘When I started reporting in agricultural journalism there were 19,000 dairy farmers in Australia, today there are less than 3000 and they’re still leaving, so how many are we going to have left in 20 years time?’ He says this decline, combined with the supermarkets increasing reliance on imported foods, is making Australia’s food supply increasingly insecure. ‘Between 1/4 and a 1/3 of our fresh fruits and vegetables are coming from overseas now and a lot of them are coming from China. It’s a crazy situation, the Chinese have got a food problem of their own but they’re exporting their food to Australia.’”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

Interesting Note: A very curious thing happened that I’d like to share. My Aug. 21st post, The Editors of Scientific American Take a Stance Against GMO Food Labeling, was one of the most popular ever, here on little b.p.a. Only recently have I added the social media buttons below posts, and that one quickly shot up to 257 facebooks, 13 Google 1+, 47 tweets, and 14 LinkedIns. I’m not sure when it happened, but Google News has removed it from their news index. This reduces its status and searchability, and I’d like to know why. One could speculate, but I’d rather have someone who knows way more than I do about this subject to weigh in. (Note that there is a difference between a Web search and a Google News search. The post obviously is still available by web search.)