Wisconsin's 76,000 farmers will soon have the opportunity to make their voices heard and help shape the future of agriculture for years to come.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking farmers and ranchers throughout the state and nation to participate in the 2007 Census of Agriculture. Census forms will be arriving in farm mail boxes shortly after the first of the year. Completed forms are due by Feb. 4. For the first time, producers have the option of filling out the Census online via a secure Web site.
"Your response provides information vital to the future of farming and rural Wisconsin," said Rod Nilsestuen, secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Conducted every five years by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the information collected is used for statistical purposes only. The privacy of individual Census records is protected by law.
"We want all farmers regardless of size or type of operation to know the Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future and their responsibility," said Bob Battaglia, director of the Wisconsin Agriculture Statistics Service.
The Census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures and other topics. It provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the state and nation.
"The Census of Agriculture provides information that is not available anywhere else and this information benefits agricultural producers and their communities in many, many ways," said Battaglia.
For example, policy-makers use Census data to make decisions regarding agricultural programs and to target needed services to rural residents. Companies rely on Census data when determining where to locate their operations. And farmers themselves can use Census data to help make critical decisions about their businesses.
NASS will mail out Census forms on Dec. 28 to collect data for the 2007 calendar year. For more information about 2007 Census of Agriculture, call 800-727-9540 or visit www.agcensus.usda.gov online.