KC Sheperd, Farm Director, is visiting with Troy Marshall with USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, talking about the 2022 Census of Agriculture. Producers are urged to respond by May 31st.
“We are at that last home stretch, and I am sure all of those producers that responded back in January and February are tired of the broken record of us bringing this up, but we’re still appealing to those ones that still haven’t filled it out,” Marshall said.
At this point in the process, producers have already received information about how to fill out the census through the mail and other methods, Marshall said, and USDA is now making phone calls and visiting with some of those producers who have yet to fill out their census information in person.
While there are a number of producers who have not filled out their census, Marshall said he is pleased with the number of producers who have taken the initiative.
“We’re just a tick behind where we were in 2017, so we’re tracking along right with what we have done in the past,” Marshall said. “But one thing I did notice when we kind of looked through the data, you know, we are a tick down on the return rate. However, those that have returned it have been those that are actually producing, so we’re probably up just a tick on those that are actually farming. So, I say that we have better data because we have more that actually are in ag that have responded so far.”
Marshall made sure to add that while those numbers are good, it is still critical that everyone responds to the census. The information collected in the census, Marshall added, is also used to help producers receive more funding.
“It may not be direct, right at that moment,” Marshall said. “It’s affecting you in rural communities. We’ve seen this data. I’ve seen this data here in Oklahoma, the use for grants for broadband internet usage, and you know, who would think that agriculture data would be used for broadband internet, but we ask those questions on this, and there’s not a lot of data out there around broadband usage in rural areas so we can use this data to help justify getting some of that.”
In the census, Marshall said there are questions about tillage practices and cover crop usage. Some of that data is used for practices such as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) and CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program).
New data is critical, Marshall said, because right now, the 2017 data is still being used to make important decisions on behalf of producers.
The Census of Agriculture, Marshall said, is the most comprehensive piece of data for agriculture in the U.S., and it helps defend and fund those initiatives inside and outside of USDA to help producers.
While the census may seem intimidating because of the number of questions, Marshalls said very rarely do all of those questions apply to one person.
“One of the things that I have to remind people is that the same questionnaire goes to Oklahoma and that goes to California that goes to Hawaii, so a lot of those questions are routed so that we can collect everything in every state,” Marshall said. “So very rarely have I seen someone fill out every section of that questionnaire, and it’s just really hard to do unless you’re really diverse, but most of the time for producers here in Oklahoma, I can get them through there pretty quick.”
For producers who have not filled out the questionnaire yet, Marshall said the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Oklahoma Field Office is happy to help with any questions over the phone or in person.