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A Census Story from Benton County, Mississippi

Cattle graze on a farm in Benton County, Mississippi. Cattle and calves ranked as the top livestock inventory item for the Benton County in the previous census of agriculture – what will the 2012 Census results reveal? (Photo courtesy of Dennis Garner)

Cattle graze on a farm in Benton County, Mississippi. Cattle and calves ranked as the top livestock inventory item for the Benton County in the previous census of agriculture – what will the 2012 Census results reveal? (Photo courtesy of Dennis Garner)

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every week USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

The final 2012 Census of Agriculture release is just around the corner. My passion for Census data is rooted not only in the benefits the Census results provide for agriculture as a whole, but also in the value it provides at the local level. To help you see and share all the ways Census data are working for you, USDA is kicking off a dialogue to share how the Census is working for you and your community.

Through Your Census. Your Story., you can become engaged in the Census Story.

My Census Story begins in Benton County, Mississippi. I grew up on a small livestock and row crop farm in Benton County. Like the trends in farming that continue today, I left the family farm to go to college. After graduation, I joined USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

At NASS, I maintained my roots in agriculture by collecting and providing ag data to all those who serve farmers and rural communities. Through the Census, I worked directly with the farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and community based organizations (CBOs) that rely on the information that only the Census provides.

For the 2012 Census of Agriculture, I personally visited many of these local organizations across the country and listened to their stories about how the Census can help the people and communities the CBOs represent.  From CBOs in the West who depend on the data to improve production and rural services in their communities, to agribusinesses in the East who depend on the results to improve facilities and diversify marketing options in their areas.

Regardless of which county or community you represent, the real impact of the Census can be found at the local level. When the 2012 Census data are released all the way to the county level, I will look at what has happened in Benton County, where my passion for agriculture began.

I will also look at how I can continue to use census data to serve agriculture off the farm, just as I did when I ventured away from the farm many years ago. I will ask, “How can I continue to empower others with Census data to help benefit farmers, ranchers, and rural communities?” This is my Census Story.

What’s your #AgCensusStory? How does the Census benefit you, your operation, and your community? I encourage you to read and listen to more stories and share yours at www.agcensus.usda.gov/Census_Story/.

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