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Make Time to Complete the 2017 Ag Census

The 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture is on its way to farmers across the nation. It is their voice, future, and opportunity. The updated form will arrive in early December and is easier to complete with an improved web questionnaire.

“The updated online questionnaire is very user-friendly. It can now be used on any electronic device, and can be saved and revisited as the producer’s schedule allows,” says Barbara Rater, NASS census and survey division director.

Time-saving features allow farms to skip sections that do not pertain to their operation, provide drop-down menus of frequent responses, and automatically calculate totals. Farmers will also find a new question based on military veteran status, detailed questions about food marketing practices, and questions about on-farming decision making. This data will show the contributions of beginning farmers, women farmers, and others involved in running the operation. The questionnaire takes less than an hour to complete.

“Responding online saves time and protects data quality,” says Rater. “That’s our mission at NASS – to provide timely, accurate, and useful statistics in service to U.S. agriculture. Better data mean informed decisions, and that’s why it is so important that every producer respond and be represented.”

The data collected is vital for political decision making, trade associations, research, and many other uses from creating and funding programs to supporting rural communities and the agriculture industry as a whole. Farmers use the census data to help make informed decisions on the future of their operations. Many companies and cooperatives use the information to determine locations for facilities that will serve agricultural producers. Also, community planners use the facts and figures to locate certain services needed for rural residents and farmers.

Much of the information collected from the census is assembled into maps for a more accurate way of viewing the data. The categories represented in these maps include crops and plants, economics, farms, livestock and animals, and operators. You can view the 2012 Ag Census Web Maps here.

Missouri Extension economist Ryan Milhollin says the information collected from the census strengthens numerous farm groups both large and small. The data is used to create a complete picture of all U.S. farms, those who operate them, and is the only source of uniform, extensive, and impartial data for every county in the nation, says Milhollin.

“Even if you are no longer farming, please return the census form,” says Robert Garino, Missouri state statistician for USDA in Columbia. Otherwise, the USDA continues to follow up with mailed questionnaires, phone calls, or visits from a USDA representative.

Like years past, farmers can mail in their completed census forms to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, (USDA NASS) or can submit their form online at by February 5, 2018.

Response to the census is required by law under Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113. NASS is also required by law to keep all information confidential, to use the data only for statistical purposes, and only in combined form to prevent disclosure of any producer.

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