Farms of All Sizes Should be Counted

Updated: 4/30/2018

Taken every five years, the Census of Agriculture is a complete count of America's farms, ranches and the people who operate them. Data on land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, expenditures and more is captured. This year, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will collect new information, including data on active duty and military veteran farmers, as well as expanded questions about food marketing practices.

"The Census of Agriculture is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation," explained Wisconsin State Statistician Greg Bussler. "The more farmers who complete the census, the more accurate the information we'll have available for decision makers to rely on."

The Census differs from other NASS surveys, as it collects demographic data on commodities such as horses, bison and Christmas trees, that would not otherwise be available. 

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Sheila Harsdorf explains why its time well-spent. "As a legislator, I saw how valuable census data was when making policy decisions," she said. "I know as Secretary, we here at DATCP will use the census information often when working with government officials, agribusinesses and industry partners."

"If you produced and sold $1,000 or more of agricultural product in 2017, or normally would have produced and sold that much, we need to hear from you," said NASS Administrator Hubert  Hamer. "If you're a landowner who leases your land to a producer, we need to hear from you. If you received a census but do not fit this definition of a farm, please write your status on the form and send it back."

Even the smallest plots of land, and those raising only a few animals - whether in rural or urban areas - should be counted. "The Census is each farmer's opportunity to report how big of an impact agriculture really has on our local communities, state and country," added Harsdorf. "This is the chance for farmers to share their story and influence future budgets, services, programs and policies."

Producers are encouraged to complete the census online. The online form is accessible on any electronic device, calculates totals automatically and skips questions that do not pertain to your operation. Having your tax documents handy will certainly help. In order to complete the online version, each person will need his or her unique 17-digit code, which may be found on the questionnaire.

NASS is encouraging U.S. producers who have not returned their completed Census questionnaires to do so as soon as possible to avoid phone and in-person follow-up.

Responding to the Census of Agriculture is required by law under Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113. The same law requires NASS to keep all information confidential, to use the data only for statistical purposes, and only publish in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation. Census results will be released in February 2019.

For more information, call NASS at (888) 424-7828 or visit www.agcensus.usda.gov

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