Highlights from the 2017 Census of Agriculture
This blog primarily highlights data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture. This Census is conducted every 5 years by the USDA and provides data on any plot of land that produces more than $1,000 of fruit, vegetables, or livestock in a year.
Photo by Helena Lopes
The number of farms in Colorado rose by 7.5% or 2,713 since 2012, continuing an upward growth trend that began 20 years ago. Most increase in farm operations occurred at smaller farms, with the number of farms on 50 acres or less rising by 26% since 2012 to just under 18,000. The 38,893 farms represents the most farms in the state since 1954 when Colorado had 40,749. A total of 69,032 producers were reported, of which 26,837 claimed farming as their primary occupation. These “primary farmers” are the basis of the 26,900 estimated agriculture proprietors in the SDO total estimated jobs series. Additionally there are 23,500 wage & salary positions for producers or support positions for agriculture, bringing total Agriculture employment in Colorado to 50,400 in 2018. Agriculture ranks as the 4th smallest industry in the state, just behind Federal Government; however, in many smaller, rural counties agriculture is the top employing industry.
Considering that rural Colorado tends to be less diverse and skews older than the state overall, it should be no surprise that agriculture producers in Colorado tend to be older and whiter. The average age of a producer was 57.6 years old and one out of every three producers in the state is over the age of 65. With about 3,800 producers of Hispanic or Latino origin, this ethnic group accounts for 5.5% of farmers vs. 21.3% of the statewide population in 2017.
The market value of agricultural products sold in Colorado in 2017 was nearly $7.5 billion dollars, down about 4% from 2012. Livestock, poultry and products comprised 70% of the sales at $5.25 billion; 12th highest total in the nation. Cattle and calves accounted for nearly $4 billion of the livestock sold, placing Colorado as the 5th largest producer nationally. While milk from cows ranks as the 3rd most valuable product produced in Colorado, coming in at $703.6 million. Hogs & pigs brought in some serious bacon for farmers, accounting for $234.6 million in sales. Although the value of sheep, goats and wool was just under $150 million in sales, Colorado ranks first in the U.S. for this product and the value of sales from these animals is up 59% from 2012.
With $2.24 billion in crops sold, Colorado was the median state in the nation ranking 25th. Grains, oilseeds, dry beans and peas accounted for the bulk of crop sales at $1.22 billion, but 19 other states sold more of this produce than Colorado. Colorado was the 3rd largest producer of sunflower seeds in the U.S. with more than 77 million pounds produced. Colorado ranked in the top 15 for the following commodities: Other crops and hay (11th); vegetables, melons, and potatoes (14th); and nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, sod (15th). These three categories combined accounted for nearly $1 billion in sales.
Just under 32 million acres of the state’s 66.5 million acres of land area are devoted to agriculture, a figure that is essentially unchanged over the past decade. The most common use of farmland was pasture (18.8 million acres), followed by 11.1 million acres of cropland and 1.3 million acres of woodland. Only 44% of farms have irrigation; total irrigated acreage increased by 245,000 from 2012 to 2.76 million. Due to an increase in the number of smaller farms, the average size of a farm in Colorado declined from 881 acres in 2012 to 818 acres; the average irrigated acres per farm was 161.
In terms of acres planted, the top crops were wheat for grain (2.1 million), forage or hay at 1.5 million, corn for grain at 1.3 million, sorghum for grain at 346,000 acres, and 287,000 acres of millet. Potatoes covered nearly 60,000 acres, mostly in the San Luis Valley. The western slope was home to the majority of the 4,000 acres of sweet corn, 2,700 acres of peaches and 1,500 acres of apples harvested. Sugar beets for sugar covered 32,000 acres and yielded over 1 million tons for the first time in 20 years.
With nearly 2.1 million acres of land in farms, Weld County leads in the state, followed by Las Animas at nearly 1.8 million and Lincoln, Baca, and Yuma all with between 1.4 and 1.5 million acres. As of December 31, 2017, there were 2.8 million cattle and calves in the state’s livestock inventory (10th most in the nation) – which equates to one cow for every two residents of the state in 2017! With 4.5 million chickens that are layers and another 1.8 million pullets (or young hens), there were 6.3 million chickens in Colorado. The Ag Census gives an accurate count of the livestock in Colorado once every 5 years; the Decennial Census occurs half as frequently, which makes it imperative that all Colorado residents are counted in the spring of 2020.
Characteristics of Colorado In-Migrants and Out-Migrants
The largest source of change in Colorado’s population is migration. Each year between 2011 and 2016 between 235,000 and 250,000 people moved into Colorado, and between 160,000 and 196,000 people moved out of Colorado. The defining characteristic of both in-migrants and out-migrants is their age, Colorado in-migrants and out-migrants are most likely to be between 20 and 29 years old. Other differences in household income and educational attainment follow from this central age difference. The full report here documents characteristics of in-migrants and out-migrants by comparing in-migrants to out-migrants, in-migrants to Colorado residents and return migrants (i.e., people born in Colorado returning after living elsewhere) to migrants born elsewhere.
Recent commentary about changes in Colorado’s population has focused on in-migration and out-migration separately and raised conflicting concerns. Focusing on in-migration leads to concerns that Colorado is growing too fast; leading to concerns that the state is unprepared for significant increases in its population caused by in-migration. On the other hand, focusing on out-migration leads to speculation that too many people are leaving Colorado, whether due to the cost of housing, a lack of well-paying jobs, or other reasons. However, one should not consider these types of migration in isolation. The State Demography Office analysis of recent migration patterns considers both in- and out-migration. The larger analysis concludes that while there are differences between in-migrants and out-migrants, as there are between in-migrants and Colorado residents, and return migrants and other in-migrants, the overall impacts of recent migration do not signal major changes in Colorado’s population.
Figure 1 shows the overall pattern of population change, natural increase, and migration from 1985 to 2017. Since 1990, the State Demography Office estimates of net migration have been positive, indicating that in-migration has been greater than out-migration. Between 2005 and 2015, the size of the net migration component has increased every year. Since 2010, the contribution of net migration to the change in Colorado’s population is greater than the contribution from natural increase (i.e., the difference between births and deaths). Data from the American Community Survey further supports this point, showing that in-migration has been essentially constant between 2011 and 2016, ranging between 230,000 and 250,000, while the number of people moving out of Colorado over the same period has been between 160,000 and 196,000.
Colorado Extractive Industries Update: Record Oil Production and Rebounding Employment
In 2017, Colorado oil production reached a record high at 131.1 million barrels, natural gas production edged up to 1.71 trillion cubic feet, and coal production increased by 2.5 million tons to 15.2 million from 2016. Mining employment rose by 1,700 workers in 2017, but it remains 8,800 below the 2014 peak employment level.
Crude oil production in 2017 reached a record 131.1 million barrels, according to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). With an increase of 14.6 million barrels from 2016, Colorado had the 3rd most absolute growth of oil production from 2016 to 2017 after Texas (+106.7 million barrels) and New Mexico (+26.8 million barrels). Colorado accounted for 3.8% of all oil produced in the United States and was the 7th largest oil producing state in 2017 – trailing only Texas, North Dakota, Alaska, California, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
In 2007, Colorado produced 26.2 million barrels of oil and was the 11th largest producing state accounting for 1.4% of the nation’s production. Since 2007, Colorado has ridden the wave of increased oil production from tight rock formations (aka shale) that has led to an 83% increase in U.S. crude oil production over the past decade. Colorado’s petroleum production is up 400% between 2007 and 2017, trailing only to North Dakota’s 767% increase. Nearly all of the increased oil production in Colorado since 2007 can be attributed to nearly exponential growth in production in Weld County, as can be observed in Figure 1. Weld County accounted for 91% of Colorado’s 2017 oil production.
In 2014 the State Demography Office released a short publication defining the social generations used by the media and others to describe the cohorts of people born within a range of dates. These cohorts identify people who may have similar cultural experiences. In Colorado in 2010 many of the discussions surrounded the “Aging of the Baby Boomers” as they were the social generation approaching age 65 at the time. Recent news in Colorado has been focused on Millennials and their contribution to the total population and more specifically to the labor force as they are the most recent social generation to fully enter working age groups.
On March 1, 2018, the Pew Research Center defined the “Millennial” generation as persons born between 1981 and 1996. Delimiting a generation raises multiple questions, not the least of which is what do you call people born after 1996? At the moment, Pew declined to assign a label to the cohort born after 1996, preferring to call this cohort the “Post-Millennials”. While we recognize the diversity of, and within, birth cohorts, we also note that generational labels provide convenient labels (e.g., “The Greatest Generation”, “Baby Boomers”, “Generation X”, “Millennials”, etc.) for discussing large population groups –especially over time. For the time being, we will continue to follow the recommendations of the Pew Research Center in defining “Millennials” as the cohort of persons born between 1981 and 1996 and “Post-Millennials” for people born afterwards.
The significant change in the age structure in Colorado has lent itself to several questions related to the size and magnitude of Colorado’s different generations. Understanding the current and future age distribution of a community is important and gives us an opportunity to plan for potential changing demands in health services, education programs, transportation, housing, and labor supply. The purpose of this document is to describe and delineate through data the time periods of the “social generations” in Colorado.
· The Greatest generation, those born 1901 to 1927, are known to have been born and come of age in the “American Century” of economic growth, technological progress, and mostly military triumph.
· The Silent generation describes adults born from 1928 through 1945. Children of the Great Depression and World War II, their “Silent” label refers to their conformist and civic instincts. It also makes for a nice contrast with the noisy ways of the anti-establishment Boomers.
· The Baby Boomer label is drawn from the great spike in fertility that began in 1946, after the end of World War II, and ended almost as abruptly in 1964, around the time the birth control pill went on the market. It’s a classic example of a demography-driven name.
· Generation X typically refers to people born from 1965 through 1980. The label long ago overtook the first name affixed to this generation: the Baby Bust. Xers are often depicted as savvy, entrepreneurial loners.
· The Millennial generation, also known as Gen Y, gets their name from the significant turn in the calendar and refers those born 1981 through 1996 – the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.
· The post-Millennial generation – born 1997 (through 2014 for our purposes) – is a work in progress. They will be followed by a generation yet to be defined who we will refer to as the Next generation. We are assigning this Next generation to begin in 2015 (a nice round number) and if the generation is defined similarly to earlier generations it will likely be approximately 15 years in length ending in 2030 (another nice round number).
Aging of Colorado and its Impact on Employment
In October 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its long-term occupational employment projections from 2016 to 2026. Changing demographics and the aging of baby-boomers driving up demand for healthcare services were cited in the intro paragraph of the Projections overview and highlights, 2016-26 in the Monthly Labor Review. The State Demography Office (SDO) released a paper earlier in 2017 that looked at the Employment Impact from Senior Spending in Colorado, with a specific focus on the industries and occupations that were most impacted by the growing senior population in Colorado. The commonalities between the industries / occupations with the most jobs supported by seniors in Colorado and fastest growing industries and occupations identified by the BLS are highlighted below.
Between 2000 and 2007, Colorado and the US experienced a steep decline in fertility, both during and following the recession. But although the fertility rate is still declining, it’s declining at a slower rate. In part 1 of this series we looked at recent changes in fertility rates across our state by race and ethnicity, by age, and by region. Now let’s take a closer look at what we expect the future to bring, and what it means for Colorado.
Fertility measures are an important aspect of understanding changes in population growth. Taking a closer look at the recent and expected trends in Colorado’s fertility rates helps us to better understand the population as it is today, and any changes we can expect to see in the future.
There is a lot of conversation around Millennials and the workplace, and how they differ from older generations. A quick Google search will return studies on generational gaps in everything from communication styles to technology preferences. But when it comes to earnings, how are Millennials faring compared to their older counterparts?
We like to end each year with a look back at the population and economic changes and trends we’ve seen across the state. Although Colorado varies by Region and even by County, there were some big changes and takeaways at the state level that we want to share with you. You can also read the entire 2016 Population & Economic Overview here.
The Census Bureau released their July 2016 population estimates, and the data tells a very interesting story!
While the US as a whole increased by 2.2 million, or .7%, Colorado increased by 91,726 - ranking 8th among states for total growth! With a total estimated population of 5,540,545, Colorado has moved up one spot and is now the 21st largest state, beating out Minnesota.
Each fall for the past 34 years, the State Demography Office has gathered data enthusiasts from across the state together for our Annual Demography Summit. While the name of the event has changed over time, the quality of the agenda and enthusiasm of the attendees has always been high!
Every year we release our population estimates, projections and economic forecasts at the Summit. Our team presents their data, methodology, and insights in a user-friendly, easy to understand manner. You don’t need to be a demographer or an economist to get a lot out of this event - you just need to be interested in data!
Colorado’s population is getting older. Between 2010 and 2015, Colorado’s growth in its 65 plus population was 3rd fastest in the US at over 29%, compared to 4th place in overall growth (8.5%). In part 1 of this series we looked at why Colorado is aging so quickly. Now let’s take a closer look at what it means for our state.
It’s no secret that Colorado’s population is getting older. Our state’s aging population has been covered in news stories and data analysis by everyone from the Denver Post to the US Census Bureau, and with good reason. Between 2010 and 2015, Colorado’s growth in its 65 plus population was 3rd fastest in the US at over 29%. Compare this to our 4th place in overall growth (8.5%), and it’s easy to see why this topic has garnered so much attention.
But what does an older population actually mean for Colorado, and why is it happening? To answer this, we have to start at the beginning, and look at the state’s total population.