Farmers and ranchers across the country are heeding the call to have their voices heard and their farms represented in the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
The deadline for submitting Census forms was February 4, and many farmers and ranchers have responded. However, those who did not respond by the original due date will receive another copy of the form in the mail to give them another opportunity.
With 1.4 million Census forms returned, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is thanking everyone for speaking up for their communities, their industry and their future by sending in their Census form.
For those who missed the deadline, USDA reminds producers that their farm is important and needs to be counted. As a result, Census forms are still being accepted.
“Information from the Census of Agriculture helps USDA monitor trends and better understand the needs in agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Providing industry stakeholders, community leaders, lawmakers and individual farm operators with the most comprehensive and accurate U.S. agricultural reports, we all help ensure the tools are available to make informed, sound decisions to protect the future of American agriculture.”
Conducted every five years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Census provides detailed data covering nearly every facet of U.S. agriculture. It looks at land use and ownership, production practices, expenditures and other factors that affect the way farmers and ranchers do business.
“Accurate and comprehensive information from all farmers and ranchers is important so that the Census can provide a true picture of U.S. agriculture today and help everyone plan appropriately for future,” said Vilsack. “This level of information is only gathered and released once every five years, so we need the participation of every producer to ensure the agricultural industry and rural America receive the representation that will provide them with the most benefit and value.”
Farmers and ranchers can return their forms by mail or online by visiting a secure website here. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.
While some producers may be hesitating due to privacy concerns – Census and Survey Division Director at USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Renée Picanso says federal law makes privacy a non-issue…
“All of the data that we collect is confidential via Title Seven of the US code. There is a significant fine of $250,000 to any employee of our agency who would divulge any information. Some producers have that concern that anyone can go and submit a Freedom of Information Act request and get my data, but that is not true with any Federal survey data or tax records."
That same federal law that protects the privacy of farmers also requires everyone who receives a census form to respond to it. Usually 85-percent of producers are counted in the census – however – Picanso says NASS has no budget to prosecute the 15-percent who generally don't reply.