KC Sheperd, Farm Director, is visiting with Troy Marshall with USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, talking about the November Ag Census and how taking the time to complete the census can substantially benefit producers in the U.S.
The Census of Agriculture, taken only once every five years, looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income, and expenditures. For America’s farmers and ranchers, the Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future, and their opportunity.
The first part of the census, Marshall said, went out at the end of November. This first part, he added, informed recipients that the census is coming soon and gave them the option to respond online.
There will be a questionnaire, Marshall said, that will be mailed out in the middle of December, so if people want to fill out a hard copy, they will have the opportunity to do so soon.
“We want to accommodate everybody, where they want it to be,” Marshall said. “There is a great online tool that we put together that kind of helps walk you through it and makes sure that you don’t forget something, or helps to add some of those acres up for you as you go through, so it kind of moves along with you just like some of those other forms that you are used to and a lot of the other places that you may buy stuff from online or stuff like that.”
Later on, those who have still not filled out and sent back the census, Marshall said, will be contacted on the phone to encourage them to fill it out and help them with any questions they may have.
“When you look at the Census of Ag, it is something that goes back in time all the way back to George Washington,” Marshall said. “The real reason that we started the Census of Agriculture- George Washington was really looking for food. He knew food was very important, and he knew that was something that was going to be very important to the troops, so he wanted to know where that food was.”
Transitioning forward many years later, the census continues to allow producers to show the nation the value and importance of agriculture and can influence decisions that will shape the future of U.S. agriculture.
“It is so important because this is the most comprehensive piece of ag information that we have,” Marshall said. “We collect everything from, of course, acres harvested in productions, inventories, expenses, different economic indicators, demographics, we look at different land practices, land usage- we even ask about internet usage.”
Internet is a big part of the farming community, Marshall said, so it is important to know what type of internet access producers are utilizing in their day-to-day operations.
“There are a lot of different funds that are being generated and sent that way to help improve these practices,” Marshall said.
Information collected in the census, Marshall said, can be used to benefit producers through farm bills. This information, he added, is used to make decisions in individual counties all the way up to Washington, D.C.
“We can use this data to show the importance of agriculture,” Marshall said. “This is ag producers’ voice to be able to tell that story of ag, and the Census of Ag is that way to do it.”