In December, farmers will receive forms from USDA, asking them to participate in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. This national census is conducted every five years by the USDA–National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
The census helps tell the entire story of U.S. agriculture. It captures a complete count of all farms, ranches and those who operate them, according to Barbara Rater, census and survey division director for USDA–NASS. The census looks at:
- land use and ownership
- operator characteristics
- production practices
“The last Census of Agriculture counted more than 2 million farms and ranches in the U.S. spanning over 914 million acres,” Rater says. “Without the Census of Agriculture, we would not know that 3.2 million farmers in the U.S.—only 1% of our total population—provide food, fuel and fiber to the nation and others around the world.
“Even small plots of land—whether rural or urban—growing fruit, vegetables or some food animals count if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year,” Rater adds.
The census is a critical tool that gives producers a voice to influence decisions shaping the future of their operation, community and industry, she says.
“This information is used by all who serve farmers and rural communities from federal, state and local governments to agribusinesses and trade associations,” Rater says.
Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the census and requires USDA–NASS to keep all individual information confidential.
Completed census forms are due by Feb. 5, 2018. Producers can complete the census online via a secure website, or return their forms by mail.
“The updated online questionnaire is very user-friendly; it can now be used on any electronic device and can be saved and revisited as the producer’s schedule allows,” Rater says. “Better data means informed decisions, and that’s why it is so important that every producer respond and be represented.”
Census data will be released beginning in February 2019. More information on the 2017 Census of Agriculture is available at www.agcensus.usda.gov.