Cornell University has digitized the contents of the Census of Agriculture from 1840 to 2002. IPUMS NHGIS has data from 1840-1950.
United States Agriculture Data, 1840 - 2012
Includes county-level data from the United States Censuses of Agriculture for the years 1840 to 2012. Provides data about the number, types, output, and prices of various agricultural products, as well as information on the amount, expenses, sales, values, and production of machinery. Most of the basic crop output data apply to the previous harvest year. Data collected also included the population and value of livestock, the number of animals slaughtered, and the size, type, and value of farms. Part 46 of this collection contains data from 1980 through 2010. Variables in part 46 include information such as the average value of farmland, number and value of buildings per acre, food services, resident population, composition of households, and unemployment rates.
Long term economic growth, 1860-1965 : a statistical compendium, Washington, D.C. : U.S. Dept. of Commerce United States Bureau of the Census, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1966.
The Agriculture Census, in its current form, has three main components:
During the period 1840 – 1950 the Agriculture Census was conducted as part of the general decennial Economic Census. Additionally the agriculture Census was also conducted for the years 1925, 1935 and 1945.
In the period covering 1954 –1974 the Agriculture Census was conducted for all years that ended in 4 and 9 . A Census was then conducted in 1978 that signaled a transition to a system where both the Economic Census and the Agriculture Census took place in years ending in 2 and 7.
In 1997 the responsibility for the Agriculture Census was transferred from the Census Bureau to the Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) and for the very first time the annual, monthly and weekly surveys held by the NASS were fully incorporated into the Agriculture Census.
Over the years there have been changes in terms of coverage that would be important to consider in any study that involves the use of Census data from different years . A good overview of the Agriculture Census can be found in :
Boettcher, Jennifer and Gaines, Leonard (2004) Industry Research using the Economic Census. Westport, Connecticut : Greenwood Press. Chapter 7.
(Firestone Trustees Reading Room) HC101 .B594 2004
The U.S. Census of Agriculture subject guide has been prepared by
Nita Mathur and Bobray Bordelon