2017 ag census gets underway
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) starts mailing the 2017 Census of Agriculture to Nebraska producers this week. Conducted once every five years, the census aims to get a complete and accurate picture of American agriculture. The resulting data are used by farmers, ranchers, trade associations, researchers, policymakers, and many others. The data can play a vital role in community planning, farm assistance programs, technology development, farm advocacy, agribusiness setup, rural development, and more.
The census will mail in several phases through December. Farm operations of all sizes which produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural product in 2017 are included in the census. The census is the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every state and county in the nation.
The average age of principal operators of Nebraska farms/ranches in 2012 was 55.7 years, with 59.7 percent of these operators reporting farming/ranching as their primary occupation. These and thousands of other statistics are only available as a direct result of response to the census.
NASS revised the census questionnaire in an attempt to better document change and emerging trends in the industry. Changes to the form include a new question about military veteran status, expanded questions about food marketing practices, and questions about on-farm decision-making to help better capture the roles and contributions of beginning farmers, women farmers, and others involved in running a farm enterprise.
“Producers can respond to the census online or by mail. We highly recommend the updated online questionnaire,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “We heard what people wanted and we made responding to the census easier than ever. The online questionnaire now has timesaving features, such as automatic calculations, and the convenience of being accessible on mobile and desktop devices.”
“Legislators use data from the census when shaping farm policies and programs,” said Dean Groskurth, director of the NASS Northern Plains Field Office. “Community planners and local governments also use the information to target needed programs and services to rural residents. Responding to the census is an opportunity for Nebraska voices to be heard by individuals who develop policies which affect their future.”
The census response deadline is February 5, 2018. Responding to the Census of Agriculture is required by law under Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113. The same law requires NASS to keep all information confidential, to use the data only for statistical purposes, and only publish in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation. NASS will release the results of the census in February 2019.
For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture, visit http://www.agcensus.usda.gov or call (800) 727-9540.
–Nebraska Department of Agriculture