Farms of All Sizes Should be Counted

Tis' the season when mailboxes and front porches are overflowing with holiday cards and wrapped packages. Through all the hustle and bustle, farmers and ranchers across the country should also look for their 2017 Census of Agriculture form, set to arrive in the mail this December. It will be their opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities and industry by taking part in the census.

Taken every five years, the Census of Agriculture is a complete count of America's farms, ranches and the people who operate them. Data on land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, expenditures and more is captured. This year, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)  will collect new information, including data on active duty and military veteran farmers, as well as expanded questions about food marketing practices.

"The Census of Agriculture is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation," explained Wisconsin State Statistician Greg Bussler. "The more farmers who complete the census, the more accurate the information we'll have available for decision makers to rely on."

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Sheila Harsdorf encourages farmers to complete and return their Census this winter. "I promise you that filling in your Census is time well-spent," said Harsdorf. "As a legislator, I saw how valuable census data was when making policy decisions. I know as Secretary, we here at DATCP will use the census information often when working with government officials, agribusinesses and industry partners."

Even the smallest plots of land, and those raising only a few animals - whether in rural or urban areas - should be counted. "The Census is each farmer's opportunity to report how big of an impact agriculture really has on our local communities, state and country," added Harsdorf. "This is the chance for farmers to share their story and influence future budgets, services, programs and policies."

A farm is defined as any place from which at least $1,000 of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during 2017.  For a simpler, faster and more efficient process, upon receiving their questionnaire, producers are encouraged to complete the census online. The online form is accessible on any electronic device, calculates totals automatically and skips questions that do not pertain to your operation. In order to complete the online version, each person will need his or her unique 17-digit code, which may be found on the questionnaire.

The deadline for farmers to complete the census 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. Census results will be released in February 2019.

For more information, call NASS at (888) 424-7828 or visit www.agcensus.usda.gov

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