Emily Adams, Extension Educator Coshocton County and Chris Bruynis, Extension Educator Ross County
What an exciting and uncertain time to be involved in agriculture! There are several items affecting agriculture, most of which we have little influence over. Recently President Trump announced the Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/04/25/presidential-executive-order-promoting-agriculture-and-rural-prosperity) and that we would remain in NAFTA (http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/26/politics/trump-nafta/). But amidst all the headline news, there is another important item for agriculture that we all can affect. That is the 2017 Census of Agriculture (https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/).
A lot has changed in the last five years since 2012 when the last Census of Agriculture was taken. Much of the federal funding decisions, farm support, and rural development policies are a direct result of the data collected in the Census of Agriculture. The Census of Agriculture provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation. Through the Census of Agriculture, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture, and they can help influence the decisions that will shape the future of American agriculture for years to come. By responding to the Census of Agriculture, producers are helping themselves, their communities, and all of U.S. agriculture.
There are some interesting changes coming to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. These include:
- Expanded questions about food marketing practices, including the gross value of edible agricultural products sold directly to both consumers and retail markets. In 2012, this section only included yes/no type questions to determine whether an operation marketed food items directly to consumers.
- Elimination of specific designations or titles such as principal operator and new/beginning farmer. Removing these designations helps to better capture the roles and contributions of women and new/beginning farmers. To maintain continuity with the principal operator data series in earlier censuses, the 2017 Census of Agriculture retains a principal operator bridge question.
- An expanded question about who makes what kind of decisions on the farm. The 2017 Census questionnaire includes functional decision-making categories for each decision maker listed and asks respondents to mark all that apply: day-to-day decisions, land use/crop decisions, livestock decisions, record keeping/financial decisions, and estate planning.
Farmers can voluntarily sign up for the census at www.agcensus.usda.gov by June 30 to make sure their voice is included in the results. Farmers are required to complete the census if selected by the deadline of February 5, 2018. Farmers should begin to look for Census forms in their mailboxes this December. There are also options to complete the Census online. The online form will be more user-friendly in 2017, automatically calculating totals and skipping questions that are not pertinent.