Any day now you'll be receiving a census survey from the US Department of Agriculture's National Ag Statistics Service. Please take the time to complete this survey to the best of your ability. It is becoming more and more difficult for farmers, farm communities, and agriculture issues to reach a 'critical mass' in Washington, DC, discussions. The data that this census creates is vital in these discussions, making sure you can be adequately and accurately represented.
Here's one example of how the census has been used in a Pennsylvania community.
When a Pennsylvania dairy farmer heard that his local county officials were considering a significant reduction in rural snowplow services in his community, he became concerned. While the cuts were caused by local government budget constraints, this dairy farmer knew he had to do something – he turned to the Census of Agriculture administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
Using Census data he was able to illustrate the need for rural snowplow service to, “show our county officials the value of all the milk produced” in the community and the need for truck access to dairy farms during inclement weather. The farmer said the officials, “had no idea of the size of the dairy industry in our county and reconsidered their plan for the snow removal budget with dairy farmers in mind.” Because of his efforts and utilizing data from the Census of Agriculture, one farmer had the opportunity to make a significant impact and benefit his community.
While stories such as the Pennsylvania farmer’s make it evident that the census protects U.S. agriculture now, it may also be surprising to know it also protects the future of agriculture in America. Data gathered from the 2007 Census of Agriculture showed the average farmer is approaching 60 years of age and the number of farmers under the age of 25 decreased by almost 30 percent since 2002. Findings such as these have helped the USDA see the need to create beginning farmer programs to protect the future of agriculture.
Officials from NASS say stories like the one from the dairy farmer in Pennsylvania should be more common – and they encourage more farmers and ranchers to take advantage of the data and the benefits it provides. The first step is to complete the Census of Agriculture to ensure an accurate and complete count and to help grow your future, boost rural services and shape farm programs.
Soon farmers will have the opportunity to complete the 2012 Census of Agriculture. NASS will mail Census form at the end of December, and responses are due by February 4th, 2013. By responding, farmers and ranchers can have a voice in shaping their future. After all, the Census is your voice, your future and your responsibility. For more information about the Census, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828).