While in Washington, D.C., Farm Director KC Sheperd had the chance to visit with USDA NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer about the Census of Agriculture.
“We have had a strong push to get more information collected online,” Hamer said. “In fact, I think we doubled the 2017 rate that we are completing online. It is a lot quicker, it is more efficient, and it helps us to get the data in a lot quicker.”
Because there are issues with broadband in some parts of the country, Hamer said paper applications are still very acceptable.
“We really prefer the internet version,” Hamer said. “We have made it a lot easier to follow, and then you don’t have to go through all of the sections. You can click through and put the data in that you have for your operation.”
Any piece of information that farmers and ranchers provide through the survey, Hamer said, is protected by law.
“It cannot be shared with any other organization,” Hamer said. “It can’t be shared within the Department of Agriculture. So, the data that they are providing us is protected, it is safe, and it is designed to help their local communities, their regions, and the state.”
The information provided for the census, Hamer said, helps with the writing of farm bills, as it is always important to have the most up-to-date information.
“We won’t have any information available until we roll out the results,” Hamer said. “We are looking at February of 2024 at this time. We will release about five million new data points at that time. So, we won’t have any preliminary information until everything is collected, analyzed, and processed on that schedule.”
The response rate in the 2017 census was 71.8 percent, Hamer said, which is an impressive response rate for a survey organization.
“We are tracking a little bit below that, but we are really pushing, and we are going to keep that data collection window open as long as we can to try and make sure that we have the best information available,” Hamer said.
The information collected in the Census of Agriculture is beneficial for farmers, Hamer said, as the information is used to aid them in numerous ways.
“When you start looking at the Farm Agency Programs, they use a lot of information from the Census of Agriculture,” Hamer said. “Risk management tools that the producer uses are very popular. You need sound information to base those programs on.”
Many policy decisions are made based on the Census information, Hamer said, that impact local communities, states, and regions. This year’s census information will not be used in the 2023 farm bill, he added.
“We are not going to be able to release that information until early 2024,” Hamer said. “The 2017 data are available. All of the other reports that we disseminate, about 450, on all aspects of agriculture, are to be able to use in that discussion.”
The Census of Agriculture provides a sound structure to base decisions for the agriculture industry for years to come.
To listen to KC’s previous conversation with USDA’s Troy Marshall talking about the Census of Agriculture, click here.