April's Ag Advice by April Borders Extension Educator/Agronomy The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has been conducting the 2002 Census of Agriculture. The Census of Agriculture is the most comprehensive source of data portraying our nation's agriculture. It is the only source of uniform data on agriculture production and operator characteristic for each county, state, and the United States.
It is a measurement of where farmers and ranchers stand, their production costs and cropping systems, their farm supply needs, and how trends are changing. Because of the importance of this information, Congress requires that the census be done and in 1925 the census had been taken about every five years. The 2002 Census of Agriculture is the nation's 26th census.
Why do the census? Well, the first reason is that by law, the census is mandatory. United States law (Title 7, U.S. Code) requires all those who receive a census report form to respond even if they did not operate a farm or ranch in 2002. The information that is submitted on the census is guaranteed by law to be kept confidential.
NASS uses the information only for statistical purposes and publishes data only in tabulated totals. Your report cannot be used for purposes of taxation, investigation, or regulation. The privacy of individual census records is also protected from disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act.
The second reason to fill out the census is so that we can have the most complete and accurate data for our county and for South Dakota. Farm and ranch organizations use the census data to evaluate and propose policies and programs that help the agricultural producer. Farm and ranch cooperatives, commodity and trade organizations, and agribusinesses use the data to develop market strategies and to determine locations of facilities that will serve agricultural producers.
Federal government policymakers use the Census of Agriculture data in drafting legislation to help resolve agricultural problems. State and local governments use the data for planning rural development, agricultural research, and extension programs.
The most recent official estimates show that there were about 2.1 million farms in the United States. Think of what we can learn from the information that is gathered and analyzed! If you have not filled out your census report, please do so and mail it in.