For a decade, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and community-based organizations (CBOs) have placed a high priority on improving the coverage and response of minority and hard-to-reach farm and ranch operators in the Census of Agriculture. CBOs partner with NASS to help reach these underserved agricultural producers and encourage them to participate in the Census. As the CBOs educate and motivate the producers they serve to complete their Census forms, these producers become part of the data that represent the accurate picture of agriculture across the nation. The partnerships are serving both the CBOs’ mission of providing service to every producer and NASS’s goal of counting every farmer and rancher in the Census of Agriculture. In the following blog, one of NASS’s longstanding CBO partners, Ralph Paige, shares his thoughts on the importance of the ongoing 2012 Census of Agriculture.
The Census of Agriculture is Your Voice for Our Future
By Ralph Paige, Executive Director, Federation of Southern Cooperatives
There is little rest for America’s farmers and ranchers this spring. We must ensure our voices are heard and the future of our farms are represented by responding to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. As organizations such as the Federation of Southern Cooperatives work to develop, advocate and support public policies to benefit black and other family farmers in low income rural communities, there is no better time than the present to share the story of America’s black and African American farmers. One of the best ways to do this is to respond to the Census.
The U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census first counted minority farm operators in 1900 for the 12th decennial census of population. Over the past century special efforts have been made to improve coverage of minority farm operators in the Census.
The last Census of Agriculture counted 41,024 black operators on 32,938 farms and ranches in the United States. The number of black producers grew by 9 percent from 2002, and the number of black women farm operators grew by 53 percent. As we look to the future, we wonder what the 2012 Census of Agriculture will reveal about black and African American farmers and the contribution they make to America’s food and fiber system.
Knowing that information from the Census of Agriculture is used to shape local, state and national farm services, programs and policies, it’s vital to continue to share our story and be counted. Conducted only once every five years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Census provides detailed data covering nearly every face and facet of U.S. agriculture.
The Census of Agriculture looks at land use and ownership, production practices, expenditures and other factors that affect the way farmers strive to survive and grow in today’s world. The wealth of data available from the Census includes information on small, family farms as well as large farms; information on young farmers and older farmers; and insight into traditional, rural farming versus trends in areas such as lifestyle and urban farming.
The information gathered is important, so it can provide an accurate and complete picture of U.S. agriculture and those who farm America’s agricultural land. And, the information will not only tell our story today, but it help all of us plan for tomorrow. Our communities depend upon it.
If you have not yet responded, I encourage you to do so today. Farmers can return their forms by mail or online by visiting, www.agcensus.usda.gov. If you have questions about the Census of Agriculture, call 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828). The Census of Agriculture is your voice for our farming future.