Thanks to Gary Graham of Ohio State University Extension for writing this article. We have broken it in two parts, but both installments end the same way – with an urge to sign-up, participate, and be accounted for in the USDA NASS Census. This first installment will focus on what the USDA NASS Census accomplishes and why it is so crucial to participate. Next week, Gary emphasizes why your participation is so important and addresses common misconceptions that hold producers back from contributing.
“The Census of Agriculture provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every county in the nation. Through the Census of Agriculture, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture and can influence decisions that will shape the future of U.S. agriculture. Response to the Census of Agriculture is required by federal law.”
In 1790, President George Washington ordered a Census, counting 4 million Americans on farms. In 1791 he surveyed famers within roughly a 100 to 250 mile range from the then Capital. Those farmers surveyed were asked about crops, yields, livestock prices and taxes. Washington proposed the National Board of Agriculture, but congress rejected it. The 1840 population Census requested the first detailed agriculture production numbers. Not until 1862, President Abraham Lincoln established “The People’s Department” which is todays United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 1863 the Division of Statistics was established, and this would evolve into today’s National Agricultural Statistic Service (NASS). If you did the math that is 232 years for population Census’s and 182 years that an agriculture Census has been taken, yet many people do not know about it, nor participate and fail to see the value of this important process. This year (2022) is a Census year and producers need to understand the importance of their participation in the Census of Agriculture.
Let me start with the largest myth and misconception about Census participation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will come after me and raise my taxes. Nothing is further from the truth. Due to the delicate nature of the data NASS collects, they have one of the strictest protocols for data protection. NASS in bound by law (Title7, US Code, and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Act) to protect private information. Meaning NASS can never release personal information to any person, organization, nor government agency. NASS only publishes aggregated data (summarized) and never individual or farm-specific data.
Many producers attitude is that their production information is “for their eyes only” or “nothing in it for me” to participate in the Census. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Not being counted and reporting production hurts every producer. Rumors and conspiracy theories hurt as they spread lies and false accusations about big brother watching you. Many misconceptions have been heard over the years and none are valid nor true. What is true is not everyone participates, and it is hurting agriculture across Ohio and the whole country.
Before June 30, 2022, you need to sign up at the USDA NASS website. Once signed up, you will receive a Census through the mail in November 2022. Your completed census needs returned before February 2023. The data will be analyzed and the results reported in early 2024.