If you haven't returned your completed 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture form yet, do it now. Completed forms are due by February 4, 2013. Farmers can return their forms by mail or online by visiting a secure website www.agcensus.usda.gov.
Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires USDA to keep all individual information confidential. All farmers and ranchers should have received a Census form in the mail by early January.
America's farmers and ranchers have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities by taking part in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, says Greg Thessen, director of the Iowa office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service in Des Moines. Conducted every ?ve years by USDA/NASS, the census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them.
Census information is your voice and helps to shape future of farming
"It is important that all growers, state farmers, women farmers and ranchers respond," adds Mike Duffy, Iowa State University Extension economist. "Census information is your voice and helps to shape the farm future as farmers. The Census of Agriculture is the only opportunity to know the state of U.S. agriculture. The census data can be used for research projects, general information on trends, basis for policy decisions and a host of other activities. Farmers bene?t from completing the census as completely and accurately as possible because the information is used in a variety of ways that can affect them directly."
Agriculture, especially production agriculture, is changing dramatically. "Every ?ve years, farmers are given the chance to be sure we understand and know what is happening in agriculture," notes Duffy. "If we don't know the true situation in agriculture, we have to rely on anecdotal evidence."
"The census remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation," says Thessen. "It's a critical tool that gives farmers a voice to in?uence decisions that will shape the future of their community, industry and operation."
Your answers to the ag census affect farm programs and rural services
The census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures and other topics. This information is used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities from federal, state and local governments to agribusinesses and trade associations. For example, legislators use the data when shaping farm policy and agribusinesses factor it into their planning efforts.
"Your answers to the census impact farm programs and rural services that support your community," adds Thessen. "So do your part and be counted when you receive your form, because there's strength in numbers that only the census can reveal."
In 2007, U.S. farmers reported over 2 million farms, spanning across more than 922 million acres. This showed nearly a 4% increase in the number of U.S. farms from the previous census in 2002. These new farms tended to have more diversi?ed production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators, who also worked off-farm. This telling information and thousands of statistics are only available every ?ve years as a direct result of farmer responses to the census.
For more information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov. The Census of Agriculture is your voice, your future, your responsibility.