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New Farmers Benefit from Ag Census

Renee Picanso, NASS Census and Survey Division Director

Renee Picanso, NASS Census and Survey Division Director

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

This is National Agriculture Week, an annual event that gives us a chance to honor the 3 million plus farmers and ranchers across the United States who work hard each day so that we have healthy and nutritious food on our plates. From the last Census of Agriculture in 2007, we learned that the number of farmers is actually growing. But how do we know that USDA is keeping pace with their needs?

The previous Censuses of Agriculture told us that the average age of farmers is increasing.   That’s because agriculture can be a challenging business to get started in, especially for a young farmer. That’s why USDA offers a plethora of financial and technical assistance programs to new farmers. And every five years when millions of farmers respond to the Census of Agriculture, the department can assess the impact of its programs.

But the Census data doesn’t simply evaluate the current state of agriculture in the United States. The Census is one of the most important vehicles for farmers to have their voices heard and help determine the next steps for many of USDA’s programs, helping not only those who already farm, but also those who are new to the agricultural sector.

We recently heard from one such new farmer in Maryland. Dena is starting a grazing and organic vegetable and fruit farm with the help of programs that rely on Census data. As she described it, “With the Census showing more and more small farms coming into production, I’m hopeful that funding for programs that benefit smaller farms will not only be preserved, but enhanced.”

“I looked at the number of producers in my state engaged in practices similar to mine – both in terms of the kinds of crops and livestock, as well as the conservation practices we are going to employ – and I felt encouraged. There are enough folks on the same path as our farm to ensure we will be able to find supplies, support, and the critical mass necessary to collectively garner a stake in the regional marketplace.”

Dena is just one of the many farmers around the country who feel the impact that the Census of Agriculture is making on their industry. That’s why during National Agriculture Week, NASS is launching a “Share My Story” section on the Census website. I encourage farmers across America to tell us how the Census has impacted you so that we can share them online with others.  Who knows, you just might inspire another beginning farmer like Dena or spark a new idea to help your fellow farmers.

3 Responses to “New Farmers Benefit from Ag Census”

  1. teddi Irwin says:

    Our farm IN A GOOD WAY is a training farm that gives Native American men a second chance. Our vocational training program teaches a man to be self sufficient, self-sustaining and responsible. We are located in Talihina,OK.

  2. Javier Cornejo says:

    hello good afternoon my name is Francisco Javier Cornejo Barragán, I am a student for agricultural engineer, in te University of Guadalajara. The next semester is my last career and professional practices require us to make in any company or institution to integrate to work for 6 months. During this period we have to send reports on the activities we do,and is a requirement for graduation. That’s why I write, so we’ll ask to please contact any company could branch either farm or we can recommend to bring our practices in California.
    The interest is heading to California because we were present at the expo held in tulare.
    We would serve much end our career in California especially for our growth as professionals.
    Thank you very much for your attention and I hope your valuable response.

    Javier Cornejo Barragán

  3. rwilymz says:

    [[Dena is just one of the many farmers around the country who feel the impact that the Census of Agriculture is making on their industry.]]


    Unless Dena said something else that indicates this, her statements say just the opposite. She is **hopeful** that the census will make “the impact” she wishes, because she sees what she thinks are enough people in a similar position to hers, but that is all. Learn to read, folks.

    Frankly – and I’ve said this elsewhere – your census is a top-heavy, officious, and imperious monstrosity which is geared toward the 15% of the American farmers which are the corporate megaliths with on-staff CPAs and lawyers who are paid to fill the damned thing out.

    We have 10 sheep, 9 chickens, 5AC, no employees and around $1000 in gross revenues a year. Plus full time jobs and a home life that is, to be honest, not assisted by demanding that we spend several hours hacking our way through your dense thicket finding which of the 759 pages we need to use to tell you that we have 10 sheep, 9 chickens, 5AC, no employees and around $1000 gross revenue.

    And if we don’t hack our way through the dense underbrush of your “helpful” census …? there’s that little notification that failure to comply with a government census is a federal offense. Gosh! you guys sure know what it takes to get on our good side, doncha! I gave up after I got a third of the way into it and pitched it into the trash. It would be worth it to go to jail rather than to endure an exercise more tedious than an IRS audit.

    My wife, though, dug it out and sent it in.

    If you want to help…? be nicer and stop threatening people with federal criminal charges for not filling out a massive form. If you want to help…? shorten the damned thing so that the 60% of the American farmers who are similar to me and can all our information on a yellow sticky can be done with it in one or two pages. Or … hey … **online**.

    I mean, seriously. Do you folks not realize that the consensus that the USDA is in bed with corporate farming, Monsanto, Cargill, the inaptly-named American Farm Bureau [et al] is only reinforced with this?

    If you want to help all farmers, which includes the majority micro-farmers, then … I dunno … stop operating as if everyone needs to have on-staff lawyering in order to get anything done.

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