In a few short weeks, the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will be mailing the 2017 Census of Agriculture to approximately three million U.S. producers (mailing runs from mid-November through late December). Many producers don’t realize how answering, or not answering, NASS surveys and questionnaires directly impacts them, their communities, or their industries. Even if producers do not use the results themselves or take advantage of USDA or other agriculture programs and services that rely on the data, everyone is affected by rural development. Data collected from the survey affects how resources are directed to such things as roads, internet access, veteran health clinics, agribusiness set-up, disaster relief, and much more.
In addition to being used by policymakers, the data also justifies research and the development of new technologies. Census data is also used to determine where there should be agriculture education in schools and to simply promote the importance of agriculture among non-agricultural neighbors.
This year, NASS will collect new information, including data on active duty and military veteran farmers, as well as expanded questions about food marketing practices.
When farmers receive the census forms, they can complete the questionnaire either online through an improved, user-friendly system (calculates totals automatically and skips questions that do not pertain to that operation), or they may still complete the questionnaire and submit it via mail.
Census responses are due by February 5, 2018. The results will be available beginning in February 2019 in aggregate form only to ensure that no individual operation or producer can be identified as required by federal law.
For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call Marlo D. Johnson at 517-324-5300.