Sometime in December U.S. farmers will receive forms from the 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 whole story of U.S. agriculture. It captures a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them, according to Barbara Rater, census and survey division director for NASS. The census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures.
“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 United States–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.
Rater says the census is a critical tool that gives producers a voice to influence decisions shaping the future of their community, industry and operation.
“This information is used by all who serve farmers and rural communities from federal, state and local governments to agribusinesses and trade associations,” she says.
Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.
Census forms will be mailed to producers in December. Completed forms are due by Feb. 5, 2018. Producers may also 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 mean informed decisions, and that's why it is so important that every producer respond and be represented."
More information on the upcoming census is available at www.agcensus.usda.gov