Peter Landre of the Yates County Cornell Cooperative Extension interprets the 2007 Census of Agriculture, and finds that Yates County stands out as one of the top agricultural growth counties in the state.

In a time of almost daily negative economic reports, it is good to learn of some positive news related to businesses in New York.  While this year will certainly be a challenge for agricultural enterprises due to rising input costs (fuel, fertilizer, seed, feed, etc.) and low commodity prices, the strength of Yates County agriculture has never been stronger.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Ag Statistic Service recently released the 2007 Census of Agriculture. The census is conducted once every five years and is considered the most comprehensive and accurate assessment of American agriculture. According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, “It’s also a set of benchmarks against which this Department must measure and demonstrate its performance to agriculture and the taxpayer.” 
Not surprisingly, Yates County stands out as one of the top agricultural growth counties in New York State.

While statewide there was a loss of 903 farms (-2.3 percent) and 486,226 acres (-6.3 percent), Yates County saw a dramatic increase of 142 farms (20 percent) from 722 in 2002 to 864 in 2007 and  farm acreage increased by over 11,000 acres (10 percent) from 115,113 acres in 2002 to 126,118 acres in 2007.

Interestingly, Yates County follows more closely the trends found nationwide.
“The 2007 Census counted 2,204,792 farms in the United States, a net increase of 75,810 farms. Nearly 300,000 new farms have begun operation since the last census in 2002. Compared to all farms nationwide, these new farms tend to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also work off-farm.”

In addition to the beautiful lakes and forests, Yates County has the highest percentage of agriculture land (58.3 percent) of any county in the state comprising 126,118 acres of active agricultural land.

The economic impact and growth of all the agricultural businesses is staggering. In 2002, the estimated market value of land and buildings was estimated at $204,377,000.  By 2007, the value grew to $358,822,000, an amazing 76 percent increase ($154,445,000).

The 864 farm business locations in the county are estimated to generate $88,382,000 per year, a 75.4 percent increase from 2002 sales of $50,373,000 per year.  The average sales per farm also grew from $69,769 in 2002 to $102,294 in 2007.

The largest agricultural economic sector in the county is dairy. The number of dairies increased from 223 to 262 during the five year census (17.5 percent increase). The number of dairy cows also increased from 10,406 to 12,150 (16.8 percent increase). Dairy product sales also soared from $23,918,000 in 2002 to $44,095,000 in 2007, representing an 84 percent increase in sales.

These trends contrast sharply with statewide dairy trends where over 1,700 dairies (23 percent) were lost between 2002 and 2007 and dairy cows decreased by 43,548 (6.5 percent).
Livestock farms also increased from 291 farms to 363 farms in 2007. Cattle numbers increase from 9,333 to over 19,000, generating sales of $10.6 million, up from $4.4 million.

A vast majority of Yates County farms (619) grow commodity crops including corn, wheat, soybeans, barley, and other grains with a value of $31.812 million, up from $21 million in 2002.  
Grapes are another important ag sector, producing fruit for wine production, juice and fresh table grape markets. Grape acreage increased from 5,387 to 6,270 acres on 168 farms. The value of fruit sold in the county (largely made up of grapes, excluding wine market value) increased dramatically from $7,716,000 to $17,064,000, nearly a $10 million increase (121 percent).

Yates County is also one of the largest organic farm counties in the state. In 2007, there were 49 organic farms utilizing over 5,500 acres of cropland and pastureland, generating sales estimated at $2,720,000.

The number of vegetable farms also increased from 79 to 110, however, sales decreased from $6,367,000 to $4,048,000, most likely due to the reduction of processing vegetable contracts. This was somewhat offset by the increase of greenhouse/nursery farms from 50 to 52 and an increase of sales from $1,225,000 to $1,600,000.  The increase in dairy farms and crop acreage may also explain the reduction in vegetable farm sales.

The value of machinery and equipment used by farms in Yates County is significant and growing and helps create business for these support industries.  In 2002, the value of machinery and equipment was $55,089,000 and grew to $80,331,000 in 2007, a 45 percent increase in capital purchases. The average value of machinery and equipment per farm also increased from $75,985 to $92,975 during the census period.

The value of agriculture to the local economy extends well beyond the census numbers in terms of the impact on the overall local economy.  Economic multipliers for income and employment for agriculture average 2.29 for dairy, 2.28 for crops and 1.67 for fruits and vegetables. Using the dairy sales alone, this equates to nearly $90 million per year.

This contrasts with other economic sectors such as construction (1.66), services (1.48), manufacturing (1.41), retail (1.40) and finance/insurance/real estate (1.19).1

Agriculture is also efficient in terms of the demand for community services, requiring only 15¢ to 40¢ for every $1.00 it produces vs. residential development, requiring $1.09-$1.56 per $1.00 of taxes gathered.

Agriculture is also the foundation for the wine and tourism economy, providing the “raw” materials to produce the high quality wines and the scenic rural character so many people enjoy when they visit here.

The Census of Agriculture is rich with information about the status of agriculture across the country and is available online at:

1 Cornell University Department of Agricultural  Resource and Managerial Economics, Policy Issues in Rural Land Use, December 1996, “Economic Multipliers and the New York State Economy.”