RALEIGH — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) began mailing the 2017 Census of Agriculture to the nation’s producers this week, including the more than 48,000 farmers in North Carolina.
Conducted once every five years, the Census aims to get a complete and accurate picture of American agriculture. The resulting data are used by farmers, trade associations, researchers, policymakers, and many others to help make decisions in community planning, farm assistance programs, technology development, farm advocacy, agribusiness setup, rural development, and more.
“Agriculture remains North Carolina’s No. 1 industry, bringing in more than $84 billion annually,” said Dee Webb, North Carolina state statistician. “We are proud to rank top in the nation in sweet potato and tobacco production, and poultry and egg cash receipts. The state is in the process of building a new agricultural lab facility, the North Carolina Ag Sciences Center, to support the growth of our ag industries, particularly livestock production. Data collected in the 2012 Census of Agriculture pointed to the need for a new, modern facility. This lab will directly impact North Carolina farmers, and it shows how important it is for every farmer to respond to the Census. We encourage you to respond early before the rush of the holidays.”
“The Census of Agriculture is USDA’s largest data collection endeavor, providing some of the most widely used statistics in the industry,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Collected in service to American agriculture since 1840, the Census gives every producer the opportunity to be represented, so that informed decisions can support their efforts to provide the world with food, fuel, feed, and fiber. Every response matters.”
The Census will be mailed in several phases through December. Farm operations of all sizes which produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural product in 2017 are included in the Census. The Census is the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every state and county in the nation.
NASS revised the Census forms in an attempt to document changes and emerging trends in the industry. Changes include a new question about military veteran status, expanded questions about food marketing practices, and questions about on-farm decision-making to help better capture the roles and contributions of beginning farmers, women farmers, and others involved in running a farm enterprise.
“There is an updated online questionnaire available which has several timesaving features for our farmers,” said Dee Webb, North Carolina state statistician of the NC NASS Field Office. “We highly encourage farmers to take advantage of this tool which is available on any mobile or desktop device, will perform calculations and skip sections that do not pertain to your operation.”
The Census response deadline is Feb. 5, 2018. Responding to the Census of Agriculture is required by law under Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113. The same law requires NASS to keep all information confidential, to use the data only for statistical purposes, and only publish in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation. NASS will release the results of the census in February 2019.