America's farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities by taking part in the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
Conducted every five years by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS), the Census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them.
Renee Picanso, director of NASS's Census and Survey Division, says, "It is important that all growers, farmers, and ranchers respond. Census information is the voice of America's Agricultural producers and helps to shape their farm future. From decisions on where to locate new processing facilities to decisions on where to expand broadband in rural America, Census data are used to help influence these decisions on funding that matters to the future of their communities, industries, and operations."
The Census remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive, agricultural data for every county in the nation. It examines land use and ownership, production practices, income and expenditures, operator characteristics, and other topics. The information is used by all who serve farmers and rural communities, from federal, state, and local governments to agribusinesses and trade associations.
In 2007, U.S. farmers reported over two million farms, spanning across more than 922 million acres. This showed nearly a 4% increase in the number of U.S. farms from the 2002 Census. These new farms tended to have more younger operators, diversified production, fewer acres, and lower sales. Younger operators often also worked off-farm.
NASS will mail out Census forms in late December to collect data for the 2012 calendar year. Completed forms should be mailed before February 4, 2013. Producers can also fill out a secure Census form online at www.agcensus.usda.gov
Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.