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Report: Texas Farm Production is Down, but Prices Are Up

The market value of agricultural products sold in Texas has increased in recent years, but production has declined steeply, according to the latest figures from the federal Census of Agriculture released Friday.

By Neena Satija, The Texas Tribune and Reveal
A field of corn in the Texas Panhandle

The effects of the multiyear drought plaguing most of Texas are apparent in data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The five-year Census of Agriculture showed that the market value of agricultural products sold in Texas jumped from $21 billion in 2007 to more than $25 billion in 2012. But production numbers are significantly lower for many crops and livestock, and overall production expenses for farmers are also higher — $25.4 billion in 2012, compared with $19.2 billion in 2007. The increase in expenses appears to be driven by higher feed prices and rising utility expenses, along with higher chemical, seed and labor costs. 

Much of the increase in the value of agricultural products could be tied to the lower supplies of commodities and other crops in the wake of the drought. For instance, the number of cattle and calves in Texas dropped from 13.7 million in 2007 to 11.2 million in 2012, the state's most significant drop in the history of the census, which dates back decades. At the same time, the value of cattle and calves sold in 2007 was $10.5 million, while that value jumped to $13 million in 2012. The rise in beef prices has been hitting retailers and consumers lately as well. 

Some other noteworthy Texas statistics in the latest census:

  • The number of irrigated cropland acres declined from 5 million acres in 2007 to 4.5 million acres in 2012, a 10 percent decrease.
  • Annual cotton production figures declined steeply between 2007 and 2012, from 8.15 million bales to 4.8 million bales.
  • Corn production also went down from 286 million bushels in 2007 to 205 million in 2012 (that's corn produced for grain, as opposed to corn produced for silage, whose numbers were level between 2007 and 2012).
  • Federal farm payments dropped from $721 million in 2007 to $644 million in 2012.
  • Sunflower seeds were one of the only crops whose production increased significantly between 2007 and 2012, jumping from 46 million pounds grown to more than 103 million pounds in 2012.

The doubling of sunflower seed production is consistent with the rising popularity of sunflower seeds for both food consumption and oils. It has also been touted as an alternative crop for many Texas farmers because it is drought resistant and requires far less water to grow than some commodity crops like corn. 

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