AUBURN, Ala. – Alabama farmers and producers will get a chance to represent agriculture in their areas by participating in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years, this census provides a count of all U.S farms and ranches and those who operate them. The Census of Agriculture highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics.
The 2012 Census revealed more than two million farms, spanning over 914 million acres. The number of U.S. farms dropped 4 percent from the 2007 census. However, agriculture sales, income and expenses increased between 2007 and 2012. This information and thousands of other agriculture statistics come from the responses to the Census of Agriculture.
Census of Agriculture: Important to farmer
Max Runge, an Alabama Extension economist, said farmers as well as educators and policy makers benefit from the census.
“The USDA releases multiple reports each month; however, these reports are typically nationwide, or at best, state level reports,” said Runge. “The Census of Ag collects data down to the county level and the information is specific to each county.”
“The Census of Ag is detailed, which helps provide data for the current time period. It also provides benchmarks so that trends and changes in local agriculture can be noted.”
The information gathered helps Extension specialists and researchers look at trends and changes occurring in agriculture. It also helps determine what programming and research efforts need to be done and tailored to meet the changing needs of Alabama producers.
In addition, Runge encourages farmers and producers to complete the census.
“Data cannot be traced or individual responses identified. The data are important so that educational efforts and researchers focus can reflect agriculture at every level,” said Runge. “The data is used to help recognize the size and scope of agriculture and its related importance in local, regional and state economies.”
Census of Agriculture: Important to complete
Dr. Paul Brown, Alabama Extension associate director, stressed the importance of completing the census.
“The information that is gathered in this census is used in many ways to assist Alabama producers,” said Brown. “It is important that the information is up to date and as accurate as possible. If the information only reflects a portion of the state’s producers, then it is hard to identify what issues need to be addressed.”
New producers or those who participate in the 2012 census can sign up to receive the 2017 Census report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov. Click on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. For census purposes, a farm is defined as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year.
For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture, visit the national website at www.agcensus.usda.gov or contact your county Extension office.