FARMER'S TAKE

The census, does it make sense?

By CHELSEA HILL
Posted 5/17/22

It’s that time once again to start thinking about the Census of Agriculture. Every five years, the United States Department of Agriculture sends out a survey to all ag producers, asking for information about their operations.

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FARMER'S TAKE

The census, does it make sense?

Posted

It’s that time once again to start thinking about the Census of Agriculture. Every five years, the United States Department of Agriculture sends out a survey to all ag producers, asking for information about their operations.

 The census incorporates data from not only the larger producers, but also any individual who has grown and sold at least $1,000 in ag products in the census year—this could be livestock, eggs, vegetables, fiber and so on.

Once the data is collected from the census, the information is compiled, organized, and made publicly available by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). 

So why is the census so important, and why does the USDA spend thousands of dollars to send this survey out? 

It’s to collect data relevant to the farming community. It aids national, state, county and local agencies in learning what ag services, programs, new technologies, policies and funding are imperative for your local community. 

Locally speaking, this data has been used in the development of multiple feasibility studies in Wayne County, including for a dairy processing plant, an ag innovation center and trails, to name a few. It’s also used to appropriate funding to make it available for local producers in the form of grants or low-interest loans, such as the Farm Service Agency’s microloans, or grants offered through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture or the USDA.

A significant complaint that I hear from producers when these surveys or others from USDA are sent out is that they aren’t comfortable with giving out their information. I can respect that; as the farming community continues to fight to keep operating, the need to protect our way of life is as natural as breathing. 

However, in these instances, we should be open to the opportunity that this information would give, not only to us but to our children and grandchildren, when it comes to supporting programs for our future ag producers. 

In the case of the census, NASS is bound by law to keep all information collected confidential, and will never report individual information. 

The last census was sent out in 2017, and the coming census will start collecting data this fall. The submission deadline is February 2023. 

I’m most interested to see the change in data due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as so many individuals over the last year or two have decided they want to either start growing their own food or are prioritizing supporting their local producers. 

It’s this farmer’s take that the ag census is an extremely important part of developing our farming operations and community for generations to come. I hope all producers take advantage of this opportunity to have a voice in the decisions made for our area. 

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