Commissioner Weathers: 2017 Census of Agriculture Deadline Extended

Farmers and ranchers still have time to be counted in the 2017 Census of Agriculture, according to USDA’s NASS because they have extended the deadline through Spring of 2018. SC Ag Commissioner Hugh Weathers, can you tell us why this extension happened, and what makes the Census of Agriculture so important?

  • Although the first deadline has just passed, NASS will continue to accept Census information through the spring to get a complete and accurate picture of American agriculture that represents all farmers and ranchers.
  • A lot is at stake if producers are not represented in this data. Census data have and will continue to influence important decisions for American agriculture.
  • The data will affect every operation and every farming community at some point, whether it be through farm policy, disaster relief, insurance or loan programs, infrastructure improvements, or agribusiness setup.
  • There is accuracy and strength in numbers, which is why NASS is committed to giving producers every opportunity to respond.
  • Federal law mandates that everyone who received the 2017 Census of Agriculture questionnaire complete it and return it even if not currently farming.
  • NASS will continue to follow-up with producers through the spring with mailings, phone calls, and personal visits.
  • To avoid additional contacts, farmers and ranchers are encouraged to complete their Census either online at or by mail as soon as possible.
  • As in the past, USDA’s NASS targeted United States counties with less than a 75% return rate along with missing large and special commodity operations.
  • Many of those who receive a questionnaire in the mail do not respond because they do consider themselves a farmer: neither part time, hobby, or otherwise. A response, whether the recipient, in their opinion, farms or not, is extremely important to properly count the number of farms and measure how reliable our original mailing list was.
  • Since this release, the U.S. return rate is approaching 60% while the South Carolina return rate is approaching 50%. We do not yet have a single county in SC having a 75% return rate. The return rate for SC in the 2012 Census was 82%.
  • The Census of Agriculture is a significant platform where all farmers and ranchers are given an opportunity to incorporate their agricultural story into the statistics for their county, state and nation.
  • There are so many data users who need this historic snapshot of how agriculture is evolving locally and nationally.
  • For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture, visit For questions or assistance filling out the Census, call toll-free (888) 424-7828.