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Census: Number of Maine farms up as US farms down

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The number of Maine farms has grown and continues to lead the New England states, while the farm total nationwide has dropped, the federal government said Thursday.

Maine had 8,174 farms in 2012, an increase of half-a-percentage point from five years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2012 census. The 10-year trend was more dramatic, with an increase of 13.6 percent from 2002, before growth leveled off after the period from 2002 to 2007, said Gary Keough, a USDA statistician.

The preliminary data indicated the market value of Maine's crops and livestock grew 24 percent over the past five years. The report put the value of the state's agricultural goods at $764 million, including $289,210 from livestock and poultry. It didn't break down the data by crop.

"The fact that Maine has made progress in a number of areas during a challenging economic environment is a testament to the resilience and hard work of farmers and processors," said Gov. Paul LePage.

The federal data is collected every five years. It shows total acreage in Maine grew 8 percent over the past five years to 1.45 million acres. Keough said one damper on the numbers rising even higher is a lack of available land.

"New England is stable or growing with people wanting to get into farms," Keough said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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