Written by The Wolf Point Herald
Farmers and ranchers in Montana will soon have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities by taking part in the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them.
“The census remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation,” said Steve Anderson, director. “It’s a critical tool that gives farmers a voice to influence decisions that will shape the future of their community, industry and operation.”
The census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income, expenditures and other topics. This information is used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities from federal, state, and local governments to agribusinesses factor it into their planning efforts.
“Your answers to the census impact federal programs and rural services that support your community,” Anderson said. “So do your part and be counted when you receive your form because there’s strength in numbers that only the census can reveal.”
In 2007, farmers reported a total of 29,524 farms, spanning across 61.4 million acres. This shows a 6 percent increase in the number of Montana farms from the previous Census in 2002. The average age of our principal operators increased from 55.4 to 57.8 during the five-year period. Additionally, the number of Montana agricultural producers working off the farm more than 200 days a year increased by 14 percent during the same time period. This telling information and thousands of statistics are only available every five years as a direct result of farmer responses to the census.
NASS mailed out census forms in late December to collect data for the 2012 calendar year. Completed forms are due by Feb. 4. Producers can fill out the census online via a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov or return their form by mail. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.
For more information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.