• By Adam Probst, Extension Agent

Agriculture & Natural Resources

Census data confirms continued decline in Kentucky tobacco farms Source: Dr. Will Snell; UK Tobacco Economist Woodford County has had a storied and historical past with Kentucky’s former cash king: tobacco. With almost 90 percent of Woodford County farms raising tobacco at one point, 5 percent of farms in Woodford County now raise tobacco. Kentucky’s tobacco sector has experienced arguably one of the largest structural changes of any sector in U.S. agriculture. According to the 2017 Ag Census, the number of Kentucky farms with tobacco acres in 2017 totaled 2,618, down from 4,537 farms in 2012. Adjustments over the past two years likely has reduced the number of Kentucky tobacco farms by even more. Despite the 42 percent reduction in tobacco farms, the 2017 value of production remained fairly constant compared to 2012 (around $350 million), but down over 50 percent from record levels exceeding $800 million in the 1990s. Other highlights from the 2017 Ag Cenus related to tobacco include that Kentucky had 42 percent of the number of U.S. farms (6,237) growing tobacco in 2017, followed by North Carolina (1,294), Pennsylvania (812), Tennessee (598), and Virginia (306). The average size of tobacco production per farm in Kentucky was 30.8 acres in 2017, compared to 19.4 acres in 2012, 10.8 acres in 2007 and 3.8 acres in 2002. In 2017, 204 Kentucky farms grew more than 100 acres versus 138 in 2012 and 72 in 2007. Twelve Kentucky counties increased the number of farms growing tobacco in 2017 compared to 2012 – Breckinridge (+10), Campbell (+2), Christian (+7), Daviess (+19), Grayson (+13), Lyon (+5), Morgan (+9), Muhlenberg (+2), Todd (+23), Trigg (+11), Union (+3), and Webster (+5). Only four Kentucky counties had more than 100 farms growing tobacco in 2017 (compared to 14 in the 2012 Census) led by Christian County with 137 farms, Todd with 125 farms, Daviess with 106 farms and Breckinridge with 105 farms. Green County lost the largest number of tobacco farms over the last two census periods with a total of 87 farms exiting tobacco production from 2012 to 2017, followed by Hart County losing 86 tobacco farms, Marion County losing 83 tobacco farms, and Shelby County losing 80 tobacco farms. Christian County remained the number one tobacco producing county for Kentucky in 2017 (with 14.4 million pounds valued at $31.1 million), followed by Barren County (8.3 million pounds valued at $16.4 million), Calloway County (7.3 million pounds valued at $18.0 million), Daviess County (7.1 million pounds valued at $13.4 million and Green County (7.0 million pounds valued at $13.9 million).

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