Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) — The average age of farmers in America has increased while the number of farms declined, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported today.

The heads of U.S. farms on average were 58.3 years old in 2012, up from 57.1 years in 2007, according to the agency’s census of agriculture. Total farms fell 4.3 percent to 2.11 million and average size expanded 3.8 percent to 434 acres.

“Agriculture embracing diversity in all forms is extremely important” to combat the aging workforce and shrinking rural population, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today in a speech announcing initial census results.

U.S. farms are coping with the waning of a commodities boom that pushed agricultural profits to records in 2011 and 2013, according to economists. Net income this year may fall 27 percent to $95.8 billion, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said this month, while a 37 percent surge in farmland prices since 2009 may start to ease, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

The census, which contacts every U.S. farm and ranch, is the most comprehensive source of agricultural data collected by the federal government. Produced every five years, the document is intended to show changes in the farm economy and illustrate the challenges farmers face. 

Copyright 2018 Bloomberg. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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