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Preliminary work on next census of agriculture begins

2017The 2017 Census of Agriculture is coming, and farmers are urged to promptly reply to a preliminary letter arriving soon in the mail.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has begun identifying farmers who qualify to be counted in the census, which is conducted every five years. The USDA defines a farm as an operation with at least $1,000 in agriculture product sales. The agency’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is contacting tens of thousands of producers in Virginia by mail to see if they qualify.

“The Census of Agriculture is the official source of facts about American and Virginia agriculture, and we urge all farmers to participate if asked,” said Wayne F. Pryor, president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “With debate set to begin on a new federal farm bill next year, accurate statistics are vital policy tools. These figures are used by Congress and state governments and could directly affect many farm and conservation programs.”

Some preliminary letter recipients might never have been counted before because they are new to the business or didn’t sell enough products in the past to quality, said Herman Ellison, NASS Virginia state statistician.

Even the responses of farmers who cease farming in 2017 are needed to compile an accurate picture of the state’s farm economy.

The full census form will arrive after the 2017 fall harvest ends, Ellison added.

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