American Farmland Trust, the nation’s oldest conservation agriculture organization, with support from CoBank and Farm Credit East, has developed the Agricultural Viability Index for eight Northeast states.
The AVI is an interactive web-based tool designed to help decision makers assess the health of agriculture as an economic sector at a state, county, and/or regional level.
Getting down to business
Why are some types of agriculture more successful in certain areas and less successful in others? What are some trends that we can see in farm types and demographics across the Northeast region? What areas and sectors are better positioned for future viability, and what areas may face challenges going forward? These are all questions that American Farmland Trust (AFT) has attempted to answer through its creation of the Agricultural Viability Index.
AFT created the AVI to show a spectrum of interdependent factors which together portray the overall health and well-being of agriculture in a specific place and time. Primarily using 2017 Census of Agriculture data the AVI initially focused on eight Northeastern States from New Jersey to Maine, and six leading industries including: vegetables and melons, fruits, dairy, beef, poultry and eggs, and greenhouse and nursery operations. While the AVI may not be directly applicable to individual operations within a given area (individual farms may be successful in areas with low scores, or conversely, unsuccessful in areas with high scores), it does help in assessing whether a jurisdiction can sustain profitable farm industry sectors, support wealth creation through agriculture and retain land in production for future generations.
How does it work?
Using special tabulations of 2017 Census of Agriculture data and informed by stakeholder engagement, the AVI combines economic dimensions and ownership/operator characteristics and makes the data available through a series of interactive dashboards and maps. The home page and Explore Data page feature interactive maps and dashboards that present various dimensions of viability across six industries, eight states and 149 counties in the Northeast region.
The website is open to all, and easy to navigate. You can click here to access the home page. The Explore Data page offers interactive maps that show farm census data, such as number and size of farms, industry types, and more; economic information; and ownership and operator information. The Farms Under Threat page shows trends and patterns of farmland conversion. Finally, the AVI & Beyond page explores some economic and demographic trends which didn’t fit neatly into the index but which AFT thought were important to highlight.
AFT hopes that this project can inform industry stakeholders regarding the relative vitality of different agricultural sectors in different areas, along with challenges faced and areas in need of assistance. The page: What is the AVI? Offers more in-depth information as to how the AVI was developed.
This blog was written by Chris Laughton, Director of the Farm Credit East's Knowledge Exchange.