There’s still time to fill out 2022 Census of Ag survey
By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – The official but “soft” Feb. 6 deadline to respond to the 2022 Census of Agriculture has passed.
But that was not a hard deadline and there’s still time to respond to the survey, which is conducted every five years and provides a complete account of the nation’s farms and ranches and the people who operate them.
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will continue to accept completed census questionnaires through the spring.
This is an attempt to ensure all farmers and ranchers have the chance to take advantage of the opportunity to be represented in the widely used data, said Ben Johnson, director of NASS’ Idaho field office.
The census of ag data is widely used, by companies, farmers and the groups that represent them, as well as by the federal government to provide programs that serve producers.
“To see that data at the county level and the state level across America is really helpful and beneficial to those in power in making decisions on behalf of farmers,” Johnson said.
Every farmer, large or small, can make sure their voice is heard by filling out the census of ag survey, he said.
“We want all producers to use their voices to help shape the future of American agriculture,” NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer said in a news release. “Census data inform decisions about policy, farm and conservation programs, infrastructure and rural development, research, education and more. The stronger the response, the stronger the data.”
NASS will continue to follow up with ag producers through the spring with phone calls, mailings and personal visits.
The ag census contains a host of data about American agriculture and is the only official source of this type of data in the United States.
“I use NASS data every week, at least,” said Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Chanel Tewalt. “Census data is really important. It is one of the most important ways we track trends within agriculture.”
Tewalt encouraged every farmer and rancher to fill out the census survey.
“The only way we get good data is by hearing from everybody,” she said. “You need to take it seriously. You need to get your data in. It has a real impact on … production agriculture.”
The Census of Agriculture is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agriculture data for every county and state in the nation.
“If you’re a processor looking to locate in Idaho, it’s good to hear from an unbiased source and that’s what NASS data is,” Tewalt said.
The Census of Ag contains millions of data points and helps tell the story of American agriculture, Johnson said.
“Looking through the census data, you can really find out what the story of agriculture is in America,” he said. “The more data we have, the more that story can be told.”
The data from the 2022 ag census year will be released early next year and it’s eagerly awaited by many people and organizations, Johnson said.
“People are definitely anxious to have the new data available,” he said.
Some of the highlight data points of the census include whether the total number of farms in a county, state or the nation increased or decreased.
The 2017 Census of Agriculture showed that the number of farms in the United States declined by 3 percent from 2012 to 2017, from 2.1 million to 2.042 million.
During that same period, the number of farms in Idaho actually increased by 0.7 percent, from 24,816 in 2012 to 24,996 in 2017, although most of those farms were very small farms.
Johnson said it will be interesting to see if Idaho continues to buck the nationwide trend when it comes to total farms.
Given Idaho’s rapid population growth, it will also be interesting to see how much farmland was lost in the state between 2017 and 2022.
The 2017 ag census showed Idaho had 11.7 million acres of land in agriculture that year, down 0.8 percent from 11.8 million acres in 2012.
Canyon County and Ada County in the Treasure Valley of southwestern Idaho rank as the No. 1 and No. 2 counties in the state, respectively, when it comes to number of farms, and Idaho’s population growth has been centered in those two counties.
Another data point highlight that a lot of people in Idaho are looking forward to seeing is how much agricultural land in the state is irrigated, Johnson said.
“That’s an interesting data point to know for water users and policy makers,” he said.
The 2017 census for the first time began tracking how many new and beginning farmers there are, with the definition of a new and beginning farmer being someone who has been farming for 10 years or less.
The census will also ask farmers if they consider themselves retired.
“So, we’ll see how many are coming in to farming and we’ll get somewhat of an idea of how many are going out,” Johnson said.
Census of Agriculture questionnaires were mailed to every known ag producer in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Federal law requires everyone who receives a census survey to fill it out and return it. That same law requires NASS to keep the data private.
The data is not shared with other government agencies, Johnson said.
NASS uses the information for statistical purposes only, he said, and publishes aggregate data to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation.
“The same law that requires the census to be filled out requires us to keep the data very private and very secure,” Johnson said.
Farmers and ranchers can complete their ag census either online at agcounts.usda.gov or by mail.
To learn more about the Census of Agriculture, visit nass.usda.gov/AgCensus
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