Oklahoma’s plains are rich with growth and innovation. Agriculture is among the most important industries in the state, along with energy, aviation and mining. With 34.35 million acres of farmland, Oklahoma boasts 80,245 farms and earned a total of $7.13 billion in agricultural sales in 2012.
Providing jobs for thousands of Oklahomans, farmers paid $309.65 million for hired farm labor and $63.12 million for contract labor. Besides being a source of income for hired and contract workers, farms support grain mills, electric and insurance companies, and many other businesses on which farmers rely for services.
With an impressive 19.45 million acres in permanent pasture and rangeland in 2012, it comes as no surprise that cattle is Oklahoma’s leading commodity. Cattle are raised for beef, dairy, hides and other products that are sold domestically and internationally.
Field crops also make Oklahoma a national competitor. Fertile croplands enable the state to rank in the country’s top 10 for canola, rye and winter wheat. In 2012, Oklahoma ranked No. 8 in tree nut exports with $21.8 million in cash receipts.
An emphasis on conservation and new technology helps protect Oklahoma’s agricultural legacy, making it a cutting-edge industry. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry encourages producers to utilize innovative farming techniques and conservation efforts through stewardship programs, incentives and educational opportunities. As of 2012, there were 53,700 acres enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program managed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Currently, there are 768,159 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program coordinated by the Farm Service Agency.
As the agriculture industry changes, so does the face of Oklahoma’s farming community. Women, minorities and young people are expanding their influence in agriculture across the country and in Oklahoma. In 2012, Oklahoma farms had 9,076 female principal operators and 38,673 general female operators.
Though the industry is constantly evolving, agriculture is the bedrock of Oklahoma’s economy and culture. The trade and sale of diverse products is vital to Oklahoma and the country as a whole. Supplying income, food, fuel and fiber to the state and country, agriculture keeps the state clothed, fed and comfortable.