[photo, Tractor exhibition, Cecil County Fair, Fair Hill, Maryland] Agriculture remains the largest single land use in Maryland, with 2,100,000 acres, or roughly 33% of total land area used for farming. Approximately 350,000 people are employed in some aspect of agriculture, making it the largest commercial industry in the State. In 2001, some 12,400 farms averaged 169 acres each. The majority of farmland in Maryland is located in the north central part of the State and the upper Eastern Shore.

Tractor pull event, Cecil County Fair, Fair Hill, Maryland, July 2000. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

[photo, Fair produce, Frederick County Fair, Frederick, Maryland]

Produce, Frederick County Fair, Frederick, Maryland, September 2000. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

The 2000 growing season saw abundant rainfall after three years of dry weather. Most crops met or exceeded projections, with barley, corn, and soybeans setting records in production and yield. Corn for grain averaged 155 bushels per acre, a 67 percent increase from 1999, and soybean yields increased 44 percent in 2000 to 43 bushels per acre. Wheat yields of 63 bushels per acre were the highest since 1997 and barley production was the highest since 1995 at 82 bushels per acre. Queen Anne's County led all other counties in soybean and corn production. Gross farm income for Maryland totaled $1.5 billion in 2000.

Broiler chickens accounted for 31 percent of Maryland's agricultural cash receipts. The State ranks seventh among states in the number of broilers produced and eighth in pounds produced. In 2000, some 283 million broiler chickens were produced, down from 294 million in 1999. Egg production also declined from 894 million in 1999 to 845 million in 2000. Fewer turkeys were produced in 2000, down 150,000 from 1999. The value of the birds, however, rose from $6.45 million to $6.62 million in the same period.

In 2001, gross farm income rose to $1.6 billion. Average net farm income was $42,090, up from $33,036 in 2000. Broiler chickens brought in 35% of farm income in Maryland, followed by greenhouse and nursery products at 19%, and milk and dairy products accounting for 13%.

Growing conditions in 2001 were variable, resulting in lower crop yields than in 2000. Corn for grain averaged 136 bushels per acre, down from the record high of 155 set in 2000. From 410,000 acres, 55.8 million bushels of corn were harvested. The soybean yield also was slightly down from the previous year at 39 bushels per acre, with a total production of 20.1 million bushels. Winter wheat again yielded 63 bushels per acre, but 11 million bushels were harvested, down from 12.6 million bushels in 2000. Barley yielded 75 bushels per acre, totalling 3.8 million bushels. Due to the tobacco buy out, tobacco was harvested from the fewest acres on record, 2,200 acres, and sixty percent less tobacco was grown than in 2000, a total of 3.3 million pounds.

[photo, Cattle sign, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland]

The Department of Agriculture is responsible for marketing, animal industries, and consumer services; plant industries and pest management; and resource conservation. Data relating to the production and marketing of agricultural products, agriculture prices and income, and other statistics pertinent to agriculture and agribusiness is compiled and published by the Agricultural Statistics Service, a State statistical office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Maryland Cooperative Extension is a statewide education system operated by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the University of Maryland, College Park. For farmers and others involved in agriculture, the Extension offers problem-solving resources and scientific expertise through its network of county extension offices.

Traditional showcases of agriculture persist through the annual Maryland State Fair, held near Labor Day at Timonium; annual county fairs; and regional farmers' markets.

Cattle sign, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, September 1998. Photo by Diane P. Frese.

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