Counting All Farmers
January 20, 2018
Written By Adam Buckallew
Census Tells the True Story About the State of U.S. Agriculture
The 2017 Census of Agriculture, which provides detailed data covering nearly every facet of U.S. agriculture, is underway and millions of agricultural operators across the United States are encouraged to promptly complete the survey to fully demonstrate the value and importance of agriculture to the nation.
Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures and other topics. Farmers and ranchers have until Feb. 5 to submit their information and ensure their data is accurately represented.
“The Census of Agriculture remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agriculture data for every county in the nation,” says NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “As such, census results are relied upon heavily by those who serve farmers and rural communities, including federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, extension educators, researchers, and farmers and ranchers themselves.”
Producers can mail in their completed census form, or respond online via a web questionnaire. NASS has extensively revised the online questionnaire to make it more convenient.
“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,” says NASS Census and Survey Division Director Barbara Rater. “Responding online saves time and protects data quality. That’s our mission at NASS—to provide timely, accurate and useful statistics in service to U.S. agriculture. Better data mean informed decisions, and that’s why it is so important that every producer respond and be represented.”
New time-saving features of the online questionnaire include automatically calculating totals, skipping sections that do not pertain to the operation and providing drop-down menus of frequent responses.
Revisions and additions to the 2017 Census of Agriculture aim to capture a more detailed account of the industry. Producers will see a new question about military veteran status, expanded questions about food marketing practices and questions about on-farm decision-making to better capture the roles and contributions of beginning farmers, women farmers and others involved in running the business.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture revealed that more than 3 million farmers operated more than 2 million farms, spanning more than 914 million acres. This was a 4 percent decrease in the number of U.S. farms from the previous census in 2007. However, agriculture sales, income and expenses increased between 2007 and 2012. This telling information and thousands of other agriculture statistics are a direct result of responses to the Census of Agriculture.
“Today, when data are so important, there is strength in numbers,” says Hamer. “For farmers and ranchers, participation in the 2017 Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future and their opportunity to shape American agriculture—its policies, services and assistance programs—for years to come.”
For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call (800) 727-9540.