Historically the USDA’s agricultural census has studied the value of agriculture in the United States. Beginning in 1840 and conducted every five years since, the census has collected information on land use and tenure, production practices, and farm income. This data is then compiled and analyzed by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
Agriculture has changed a lot in the last 180 years – and farmers too. As a result, the census is also being streamlined and updated, with the upcoming 2022 questionnaire covering questions that previous generations of farmers never had to grapple with. But that’s all the more reason to take part. In a press release, NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer says census data is widely shared by governments at all levels and can inform decisions about policies, programs and aid distribution. By participating in the census, “producers are literally helping to shape their future.”
One of the most important – and ever-changing – pieces of data is capturing the changing demographics of farmers. In which In the 2017 census, the number of female producers increased by 27 percent, with a female listed on about half of all participating farms. The gender questions were specifically adjusted after the 2012 census to allow NASS to better measure the contributions of everyone involved in agricultural production. The 2012 census asked about everyone involved in the farm’s day-to-day decisions. In 2017, the questions went even further, noting things like who was responsible for land use decisions, livestock decisions, record keeping, and more. This information expanded the scope of stakeholders at multiple levels on farms.
The 2022 census will also track technology, including use of precision farming and internet access. In the age of internet-connected apps and automated systems, NASS is trying to figure out how people connect to the internet and who doesn’t yet have access. Respondents can indicate whether they access the Internet via satellite, broadband, or dial-up service, or whether they rely on a cell phone or data plan to get online.
To qualify as a farm, an organization must produce and sell at least $1,000 during the census year. In an email, NASS officials say this can include traditional farming and ranching businesses, as well as “people with a few horses, chickens, a microgreen farm, a rooftop flower farm, llamas or goats, ripening houses or greenhouses, a small plot of land.” of the cultivation of fruit and vegetables on land” and more. If you grow or produce goods, you will likely qualify.
If so, expect to see a survey code in your email inbox this November that you can use to complete the survey online. NASS will also send out paper questionnaires in December when this is a preferred method of response. You have until February 6, 2023 to reply and the data will be ready for publication in Summer 2024.