November 8, 2017
Forms are being mailed in early December for the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, and Kansas state statistician Doug Bounds is urging every farmer to fill out the questionnaire as completely as possible.
“It is our goal to have the Census of Agriculture be an accurate reflection of agriculture in the state and the nation,” he says. “To get that, we need farmers to give complete and honest answers to the questions.”
Bounds says many farmers may not realize it, but there are a number of county, state and federal programs, including grants, that rely on the statistics in the Census of Agriculture to make decisions.
He says the statistics in any one questionnaire are not matched with names and farming operations, but are used to compile aggregate statistics for the state.
“Farmers do not need to be worried about their specific farming information being made public,” he says. “We compile all the questionnaires to get a picture of agriculture by county, region and state, but not farm by farm.”
Questions of the form ask about number of acres farmed, land use — cropland, pasture, woodlands, etc. — whether land is owned, leased or rented, cropping practices, use of crop insurance and other government programs, and the type of business organization.
Statistics are also compiled on demographics in agriculture with questions about sex, age, ethnicity, on-farm and off-farm work, and military service, among other things.
Data is collected on the kinds of crops grown and the number of acres of each, along with data on livestock raised from cattle to honey bees. Other questions gather data on marketing practices, use of renewable energy, types of chemicals used, machinery and equipment, and the number of workers, both hired and family members.
Finally, the census asks for financial data including production expenses, debt, market value of land, buildings and machinery, and income from farming operations.
Bounds says he realizes that filling out the form takes time and some operators may be reluctant to divulge financial details of their operation.
“I would just re-emphasize that the data is aggregated so your farm will not be singled out,” he says. “And again, it is very important that the data we get is accurate and complete. One of the biggest concerns we hear is that the Census of Agriculture is complete and accurate.”
The USDA Census of Agriculture is completed once every five years. Forms area mailed out in December land data reflects the numbers for the just ending calendar year.
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