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NASS Guides Agricultural Censuses Worldwide

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

While USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is gearing up for the next Census of Agriculture right here in the United States, the agency is also sharing its expertise to help guide agriculture censuses around the world. In December, the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Armenia hosted NASS representatives to help these two nations prepare for their own censuses of agriculture.

Serbia will conduct a census of agriculture beginning in October 2012. This is the first census of agriculture for the country in 50 years and will follow its recent population census. To help the country improve its agricultural statistics program and plan for the census of agriculture, NASS has collaborated with the Statistics Office of the Republic of Serbia (SORS) and the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Forestry and Water Management (MoA) for the past several years. NASS has provided guidance in questionnaire design, enumerator training, information technology and most recently communications and outreach.

Bob Hale from NASS’s International Programs Office, and Krissy Young from NASS’s Public Affairs Section attended the Third Annual Extension Conference in Zlatibor, Serbia. Their presentations focused on communications for the Serbian 2012 Census of Agriculture. More than 300 representatives from the agricultural extension services, MoA and SORS attended the conference.  More than 60 people attended specific sessions to learn more about branding and communications planning for a census. The presentations gave attendees from different regions of the country an opportunity to begin working together on local census outreach and promotion planning.

While one NASS team worked in Serbia, the Armenian government hosted Mike Steiner from the NASS International Programs Office, and Chris Messer, Chief of NASS’s  Program Administration Branch, for a seminar in Yerevan to help them prepare to collect data from producers through an agricultural census process for the first time in more than 90 years.  Similar to Serbia, Armenia will conduct its 2013 Census of Agriculture as a follow-on to the country’s population census, which was conducted this year.

The agricultural census will provide much needed information as Armenian farmers produce grains, vegetables, numerous fruits and nuts, raise most types of livestock, and rely on agriculture for rural community support. Together with Thomas Bie, representative of the Twinings Project from the European Union, the NASS team discussed the Armenian census of agriculture in terms of the International, European, and U.S. experiences; selected examples of uses of census data in the United States; draft questionnaires and data collection strategies; project management; and the importance of a communications campaign.

International projects like these, supported by reimbursable funding, go beyond just helping the host country.  They are learning experiences for NASS as well.  As staff work with other statistical organizations they are exposed to new and different methodologies that broaden their experience.  They can then apply these experiences to challenges at home to improve service to U.S. agriculture.  Very importantly, projects like these help U.S agriculture by contributing to more accurate information on world agricultural supply and demand to make better marketing decisions for U.S. products.

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