Montana farmers and ranchers are being asked to fill out a very important survey that helps paint an accurate picture of American agriculture - the Census of Agriculture.
“By filling it out you let your voice be heard. You let everyone know how Montana’s agriculture economy is; basically, telling us your story” says USDA-NASS MT State Statistician Eric Sommer.
Conducted every five years, the Census of Agriculture is the USDA’s largest data collection endeavor and serves a very important role.
Sommer says, “The census really is the building block for all of USDA’s programs. That’s the basis and where we determine whether or not a program is going to be funded or not be funded.”
State governments also use the Census of Agriculture.
“It’s kind of the most important thing holding everything together and getting our programs out there. I’s really the farmers main voice out there to have county level data in the U.S. so it’s used for a lot of things” says Sommer.
Information confidentiality is a top priority; Sommer said, “The data is all combined. So, we’re not going to release an individual’s data. We’re not sharing it with the IRS and we’re not sharing it with the FSA and we’re not using it to come after you. We’re using it to do a county level number, a district level number and a state number.”
Farm and ranch 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.
“I would just like to thank all Montana producers and all your participation and hard work. We can’t share your voice and your story without you participating and helping us out” says Sommer.
Collected in service to American agriculture since 1840, responding to the Census of Agriculture is required by law so please do your part for Montana’s agriculture industry.
The census response deadline is February 5th.
For more information, farmers and ranchers can visit the Census website, which includes this overview:
The Census of Agriculture provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation. Through the Census of Agriculture, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture, and they can help influence the decisions that will shape the future of American agriculture for years to come. By responding to the Census of Agriculture, producers are helping themselves, their communities, and all of U.S. agriculture.
Census of Agriculture data are used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities — federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations and many others.
Must I respond to the Census of Agriculture?
Yes. United States law (Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113), requires all those who receive a Census of Agriculture report form to respond even if they did not operate a farm or ranch in 2017.