Census of Agriculture: Gold standard for reliable information

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service will mail census forms to farmers in about eight weeks.

usdaConducted once every five years, the Census of Agriculture is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them. It is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agriculture data for every state and county in the country.

Farmers and ranchers, trade associations, government, extension educators, researchers and many others rely on Census of Agriculture data when making decisions that shape American agriculture – from creating and funding farm programs to boosting services for communities and the industry. The Census of Agriculture is a producer’s voice, future, and opportunity.

Farmer participation in the Census of Agriculture is required by law and information on individual farms and farmers is confidential. The USDA only releases information in aggregate forms.

NASS has extensively revised the online questionnaire to make it more convenient for producers. “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,” said 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. Producers still have one week to try the online questionnaire demo on the Census of Agriculture website (www.agcensus.usda.gov).

The Census website will continue to be updated with new information through the response deadline ofFebruary 5, 2018. 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.

“I can’t emphasize enough just how important the Census is to Virginia’s largest private industry, agriculture,” said VDACS Commissioner Sandy Adams, “and I encourage every Virginia farmer to respond quickly and accurately.”

Producers can mail in their completed Census form, or respond online via the improved web questionnaire. Response 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 in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any producer. The time required to complete the questionnaire is estimated at 50 minutes.

In October, NASS will make a Census preparation checklist available on the website to help producers gather necessary information in advance. For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 800.727.9540.

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