Farmers have a census of their own

While it may be common knowledge that our nation conducts a census of the population every ten years, did you know that a special survey of the agricultural community is conducted every five years?

The Census of Agriculture began as part of the 1820 census and by 1840, it was decided that separate data collection would be conducted specific to farming. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service is wrapping up its collection of census forms for the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The deadline for farmers to return their forms was originally February 4, however the USDA is still accepting submissions, according to a recent press release.

The census is more than an opportunity for farmers to stand up and be counted. The data gathered is important to a host of decisions made about agriculture. In the USDA’s release, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack explains the importance of the census.

“Information from the Census of Agriculture helps USDA monitor trends and better understand the needs in agriculture. Providing industry stakeholders, community leaders, lawmakers and individual farm operators with the most comprehensive and accurate U.S. agricultural reports, we all help ensure the tools are available to make informed, sound decisions to protect the future of American agriculture.”

With issues such as the farm bill and crop insurance at stake, policymakers could use data from the census to make better-informed decisions.

The census covers a broad range of areas within farming, from production practices to land use. By law, farmers receiving a census form must complete it, including producers with more than $1,000 in product sales last year. According to a recent article, the 26-page form takes an average of 50 minutes to complete.

If you are a farmer and have questions about the Census of Agriculture, resources are available at or by calling 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828).

Have you or farmers in your community participated in this year’s census? Do you see the value of collecting this information?

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