USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has started mailing the 2017 Census of Agriculture questionnaires to farmers and ranchers. “We will mail the forms to a total of 3 million producers across the nation. All of them should be in mailboxes by the end of December,” says Greg Thessen, director of the NASS Upper Midwest Regional office in Des Moines.
Conducted once every five years, the census aims to get a complete and accurate picture of American agriculture. The resulting data are used by farmers, ranchers, trade associations, researchers, policymakers and many others to help make decisions in community planning, farm assistance programs, technology development, farm advocacy, agribusiness setup, rural development and more.
Return census form by Feb. 5
Whether you respond by mail, website or mobile device, you need to respond and be counted, says Thessen. Deadline to respond is Feb. 5. He says this 2017 questionnaire is improved compared to previous ag census forms, and you can complete it online if you wish. Go to agcensus.usda.gov. The new Ag Census form is convenient and user-friendly, and accessible on any electronic device. It calculates totals automatically and skips questions not applicable to your farming operation.
“The Census of Agriculture is USDA’s largest data collection endeavor, providing some of the most widely used statistics in the industry,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in a press statement released this week. “Collected in service to American agriculture since 1840, the census gives every producer the opportunity to be represented so that informed decisions can support their efforts to provide the world with food, fuel, feed and fiber. Every response matters.”
The census is being mailed in several phases through December. Farm operations of all sizes that produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of ag product in 2017 are included in the census. The census is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agriculture data for every state and county in the nation.
New form shows emerging trends
NASS has updated the census forms to document changes and emerging trends in the industry. Changes include a new question about military veteran status, expanded questions about food marketing practices, and questions about on-farm decision-making to help better capture the roles and contributions of beginning farmers, women farmers and others involved in running a farm enterprise.
“Producers can respond to the census online or by mail. We highly recommend using the updated online questionnaire, which should make responding to the census easier than ever,” Thessen says. “The online questionnaire now has time-saving features, such as automatic calculations, and the convenience of being accessible on mobile and desktop devices.”
Response required by law
While the census response deadline is Feb. 5, you can respond earlier and you are encouraged to do so, Thessen says. 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.
NASS will release the results of the census in February 2019. For more information about the 2017 Census of Ag, visit agcensus.usda.gov or call 800-727-9540.