Farm census begins
MADISON-(MCT REGIONAL NEWS) Farmers nationwide will soon receive the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The census, distributed every five years by the U.S Department of Agriculture, creates a comprehensive snapshot of farms and their practices.
The census examines land use, ownership, production methods, crops and livestock, and size. The information is essential to the state and federal government’s efforts to support agriculture, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture secretary Ben Brancel said.
“Congress has more tools at hand when they start to make decisions,” he said. The state department of agriculture also “breaks down those numbers ourselves.”
Trade associations use the information for promoting and targeting certain products or communities.
“If we’re talking to someone in Asia or the Middle East, they might not have a recognition of ginseng or the value of cranberries,” said Brancel. “We might miss points if we didn’t have the statistical data to back that up.”
The census assumes 100 percent participation, and distributes forms by cross referencing state and national farm databases. A farm is defined as any place that produced and sold, or usually would have sold, $1,000 or more in agricultural products.
More than 1½ years is spent preparing for the census, which is due Feb. 4. Prompt reporting facilitates data collection.
“It’s actually a cost savings to the government if people just fill them out and send them,” Brancel said. Data is released so that no farm is individually identifiable, said Brancel. “Confidentiality is of the utmost importance.”
If a farm has not received a census in the mail by the end of next week, Brancel suggests contacting the state or federal department of agriculture.