Iowa farmers still have time to be counted in the 2017 Census of Agriculture, according to Greg Thessen, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) Upper Midwest Regional Office in Des Moines.
“We plan to collect data until July 31 as we work to get a complete and accurate picture of agriculture in Iowa,” Thessen said. “We really urge farmers to invest the time to complete the census.”
The Census of Agriculture, which has been compiled periodically since 1840, provides the most complete statistical look at American agriculture, according U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “The census gives every producer the opportunity to be represented so that informed decisions can support their effort to provide the world with food, fuel, feed and fiber,” he said last fall when the USDA began collecting the data for the 2017 census.
The USDA began sending out the questionnaires for the Ag Census last November to farms of all sizes. The questionnaires can be completed online or can be filled out on paper and mailed in.
As of the end of March, just over 62 percent of the 113,000 Census questionnaires in Iowa have been returned. That’s actually one of the highest rates in the country, Thessen said.
“We’ve been going back and forth with Illinois on who has the best response rate,” Thessen said.
NASS plans to continue following up with farmers with mailings, phone calls and personal visits until the July 31 deadline for those who haven’t filled out the questionnaire.
“We need to hear from all farmers and ranchers, no matter how big or how small their part of agriculture is,” said Thessen. “Just like they invest in new technology or new machinery for their farm every few years, the time they spend completing the Census is an investment in providing updated information used by everyone involved in agriculture and rural communities.”
A robust information pool in the Ag Census is important to farmers on a practical level, said Dave Miller, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation director of research and commodity services, who urged farmers to fill out the Ag Census either by mail or online.
“Ag Census data provides critical information for implementation of many of USDA’s programs,” Miller said. “It is used extensively for allocation of federal funds for rural development programs that help with rural electric cooperatives, rural telecommunications, rural broadband programs and rural housing programs, both on farms and for smaller rural communities.”
The Ag Census, Miller said, also provides data that helps with beginning farmer programs and rural health programs.
“The data is more robust than annual crop data and greatly aids in our understanding of the dynamic changes that are happening on the farms and ranches that are the great strength of this country,” Miller said.
All information provided in the survey will be kept confidential and will be used for statistical purposes, and only published in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation.
NASS expects to publish the results of the 2017 Ag Census in February 2019. For more information, go to www.agcensus.usda.gov.