It doesn't matter if you have a small farm with a few thousand dollars of agricultural sales, or a farm that sells millions -- USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service wants your farm to count. Every five years NASS conducts a census of all agricultural operations with sampled surveys occurring between censuses. And guess what – 2012 is a census year! That means YOU need to make sure you will receive a census survey form.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture – like all of them – will be a count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every farm is important to gain a complete measure of U.S. agriculture. And that complete picture of U.S. agriculture informs everyone -- from Congressional staff seeking out information on their state's agriculture while preparing positions on farm policy to local meetings of the League of Women Voters or American Association of University Women interested in understanding women farmers.
Support for organic agriculture is a case in point. Special efforts to reach organic farmers have been made in the last couple of censuses. And in 2008, the Farm Bill contained provisions for an organic title. Now, the census didn't accomplish that -- but having good information helped organic agriculture advocates gain traction in farm policy. You can find stories about how the census of agriculture helped farmers here.
As a beginning farmer, you will want to stand up and be counted so that programs and policies better serve you. Again every farm counts -- from retirement/lifestyle farms and ranches that grow a small amount of plants or crops or keep only a few animals, up to the largest of operations and everything in between. Landowners that only have income from government programs are also counted as farms.
NASS will mail the 2012 Census of Agriculture later this year and data will be collected into early 2013. As a preliminary step, NASS is currently conducting a National Agricultural Classification Survey to help determine who should receive a 2012 Census of Agriculture report form. Classification Surveys have been sent out and NASS asks everyone who receives one to respond, even if they are not farming, so that NASS can develop an accurate and comprehensive mailing list to account for all of U.S. agriculture in the Census.
If you just started farming in the last couple of years, you will want to find out more and register for a survey. For more information about NASS, the Census of Agriculture, or to add your name to the Census mail list, visit http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/index.php.