Every five years, the United States Department of Agriculture conducts one of the most consequential studies for American farmers – the Census of Agriculture. While USDA won’t begin collecting the data until November, there are some steps ag producers need to take not to ensure they are included in the final results. Below is more information about the Ag Census, why it matters, and how to make sure you’re signed up:
What is the Census of Agriculture? The Census of Agriculture, conducted once every five years, is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The count includes any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced or sold. The Census is the only source of comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation. The data are routinely used by farm and commodity organizations, state departments of agriculture, elected representatives and legislators at all levels of government, public and private sector analysts, news media, agribusinesses, extension educators, and USDA agencies for a wide variety of purposes. The data inform decisions that benefit the agricultural community and the nation on everything from guiding essential food delivery systems, succession planning, and new and beginning farmer programs, to decisions affecting agriculture practices, land stewardship, and sustainability. The data also influences research funding and helps determine disaster assistance. That means the accuracy of the data is highly vital to the future of American agriculture and a top reason why every producers is encouraged to participate.
When will the 2022 Census of Agriculture be conducted? Technically, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has already started preparing for this year’s Census. Starting in December, producers may have received a National Agricultural Classification Survey (NACS) that simply asked recipients if they were involved in agricultural activity and for basic farm information. Responses to the NACS, sent to about 1 million recipients, were due March 7 and will be used to help build a survey recipient list for the Census. Additionally, about 36,000 producers were sent the 2022 Census of Agriculture Content Test. Participant responses to this survey help shape the Census questions as well as how the data is collected, among other things. NASS will begin collecting Census data in November 2022.
Who is required to respond? The USDA is required by statute to conduct the Census and anyone that receives one is required by law to respond. The statutory penalty for not responding is a $100 fine, while willfully supplying false information can be fined by up to $500. To our knowledge, the USDA has never brought an enforcement action or fined anyone for failing to respond to the census. Most likely, if you fail to respond, you will receive a duplicate survey, a phone call, or even an in-person visit. For those worried about privacy, the information provided by producers in any NASS survey or census is used for statistical purposes only. In accordance with federal law, survey responses are kept confidential and will not be disclosed in identifiable form.
What if I didn’t get a survey? Ag producers who did not receive a NACS and do not currently receive other USDA surveys can sign up to be counted in this year’s Census HERE. The sign up cutoff is June 30, 2022. Keep in mind, only a fraction of producers were selected for the Content Test, so don’t worry if you didn’t get that one.
When will the results be released? The response deadline for the 2022 Ag Census is February 2, 2023. NASS will then spend the rest of 2023 analyzing and compiling the results, which should be released sometime in early 2024. Learn more about the Census and see previous years’ results HERE.