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Report shows Oklahoma has fewer producers, but some counties had an increase of farmers and ranchers

Wheat Harvest in north west Oklahoma
Todd Johnson
OSU Agricultural Communication Services
Wheat Harvest in north west Oklahoma

The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture's Census of Agriculture shows overall Oklahoma has fewer farmers and ranchers, but not every county saw a decrease in producers.

USDA conducts a census of the nation’s farms and ranchers every five years. The report shows the state and nation have fewer producers and less farmland. Oklahoma lost 4,876 producers from 2017 through 2022, according to the census.

Andrew Van Leuven, an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University and a state extension specialist for rural development, calculated the number of producers on a county level using data from the report.

He said producers made up about 30% of the population in Cimarron, Ellis and Grant counties. In Tulsa, Cleveland and Oklahoma counties, he said farmers and ranchers accounted for less than 1% of their county’s population.

“The interesting thing is looking at the changes from 2017 to 2022,” Van Leuven said. “You can see some quite rural, ag oriented counties, stayed that way and even intensified.”

For instance, Northern Oklahoma’s Grant County gained farmers. It saw an increase of 328 producers, the highest hike of all the counties.

On the flip side, McCurtain County had the largest decrease in producers during this time. Numbers from the census show 422 producers left the area as tourism grew.

When looking at rural employment numbers, he said it’s complex.

“Is there a lot of other opportunities for people to continue to earn money or is the main centerpiece of the economy in those rural areas drying up? And so, it's usually more complicated of a story than just it's dying or it's thriving,” Van Leuven said.

He said typically if agriculture is fading as a main employment opportunity in an area, it will be replaced or that area’s economic vitality will shrink.

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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