All U.S. farmers should by now have a 2012 Census of Agriculture, mailed around the beginning of the year by USDA. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack wants farmers to fill it out and return it because “it is one of the most important tools for providing certainty to producers and sustaining the unlimited economic potential of rural America.”
Acting director of NASS in Indiana, Greg Matli, has another reason to hope for good participation from Hoosier farmers.
“Indiana has always been well represented and I think we were ranked number 2 in response rates the last census, 2007, so I’d like to get number 1 this time,” he told HAT. “So if I could get the help of the Indiana farmers to help us attain the number 1 response rate in the country, that’d be great.”
Ask Matli who uses the census and he asks who doesn’t? The data in each ag census is used in many ways and can be critical to future economic expansion in rural Indiana.
“Well I think if you look back over the history of Indiana you’ll see that we had dairies move in, ethanol move in, we had some large hog operations move in. they’re all looking at it from production side and is the feed source there, is the rail system there, is the highway system there, is there going to be enough production in the counties where they want to build a facility to support that facility? All those types of industries are going to look at the agricultural data collected in the ag census to help make those decisions on the location of where they might expand in the future.”
Matli says about 80,000 surveys were mailed to Indiana farms, and just $1,000 of annual agricultural sales qualifies an operation as a farm. He says if sales come in at or near that level, the data is still important to the overall Indiana census picture.[audio:http://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2013/01/Greg-Matli-on-2012-Census.mp3|titles=Greg Matli on 2012 Census]
Completed forms are due by February 4, 2013. Farmers can return their forms by mail or online by visiting a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.
Census information helps USDA monitor trends and understand the needs in agriculture to better align its products and services. Ways the department used Census data in the past include:
• Helping to ensure the future of the agriculture industry in America, by developing programs and priorities to help new and beginning farmers get started and stay in business. This was supported after the Census reported the average age of a farmer continued to increase from 50.3 in 1978 to 57.1 in 2007. And, while the majority of farm operators are between the age of 45 and 64, the fastest growing group of farm operators is those 65 years and older.
• Looking at where and how to provide expanded and improved Internet access and services to rural America. The Census provided comprehensive county-level data on Internet access and revealed that 57 percent of all farmers had Internet access in 2007, up from 50 percent in 2002. Of those producers accessing the Internet, 58 percent reported having a high-speed connection.
• Illustrating the changing nature and needs of agriculture, the number of farms that produced 75% of production declined from 144,000 in 2002 to 125,000. At the same time, the number of small farms counted in the 2007 Census of Agriculture represented 91 percent of all farms. Overall small farms increased 1 percent from 2002 to 2007.
Questions can be answered with a call to 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828.)[audio:http://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2013/01/Greg-Matli-full-HAT-interview.mp3|titles=Greg Matli full HAT interview]