Agriculture sustained the first settlers of Kentucky in the 1770s, and the business of raising crops and livestock continues to be the backbone of rural Kentucky today. Kentucky is home to a wide variety of agriculture production, from horses and beef cattle to tobacco and corn. Agriculture in Kentucky is one of the state’s leading and most vital industries, contributing about $45.6 billion to Kentucky’s economy each year. Kentucky agriculture is also constantly changing to keep up with consumer demand and the ever-growing world population.
Kentucky is home to 76,000 farms, from large to small. The average farm size in Kentucky is 170 acres, compared to the national average of 435 acres. Kentucky agriculture is dominated by small family farms. More than 57 percent of its farms (about 43,700) have annual sales of less than $10,000.
Of Kentucky’s 25.4 million acres, 51% is farmland, accounting for 13 million acres.
Kentucky agricultural cash receipts set a record $6.5 billion in 2014, but fell to $5.4 billion in 2016. The decreased receipts the past few years have been a result of lower cattle sales and lower grain prices.
Kentucky's top agricultural enterprises based on sales:
SOYBEANS & CORN
These versatile crops are used for animal feed, , foods, fuels, and can be found in thousands of products. Feed grain sales totaled $1.8 billion in 2016.
Broilers (chickens raised for meat), eggs, and turkeys provided Kentucky farmers more than $1 billion in 2016.
HORSES & OTHER EQUINE
Horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules have an annual economic impact of $4 billion. Horse sales in 2016 totaled nearly $1 billion.
Kentucky is home to more than 2 million cattle and calves and is the largest beef cattle state east of the Mississippi River.
While hay does not bring as much money from sales as other crops and livestock, hay (cut and dried grasses for feed) are produced on more than 2 million acres, more than any other crop. Kentucky soils, water resources, and climate make the commonwealth the perfect place to feed grazing animals.
Agriculture Cash Receipts in 2016:
- All commodities - $5.4 billion
- Animals and products - $2.95 billion
- Crops - $2.49 billion
- Other animals and products (includes horses) - $909 million
- Soybeans - $884 million
- Broilers (chickens) - $876 million
- Corn - $767 million
- Cattle and calves - $734 million
- Tobacco - $296 million
- Hay - $225 million
- Dairy products, Milk - $179 million
- Miscellaneous crops - $168 million
- Wheat - $153 million
- Chicken eggs - $119 million
- Hogs - $103 million
- Turkeys - $25 million
- Farm chickens - $2.8 million
- Honey - $925,000
- Mushrooms - $173,000
- Wool - $63,000
- Mohair - $7,000
Sources: 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, and USDA-NASS Reports