By Shala Watson
Multimedia Writer

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts the Census of Agriculture. The 2017 ag census will be mailed at the end of this year.

The census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them.

This year’s agricultural census will be mailed out around mid-December, according to Wilbert Hundl, Jr., USDA NASS Regional Director of the Southern Plains field office.

“The census is the most comprehensive data set that we have,” Hundl told the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Radio Network. “We are asking that producers who receive those forms get them completed. You have a toll free number on there. So if they have questions, they can call. We will help them fill it out and get them back into our office.”

He said it’s critical to collect the number of farms in rural areas and rural counties, because it helps determine finances and other resources for programs that support these communities.

“As an example, you have rural water districts, rural fire services, school buses and school support for cafeterias,” Hundl said. “There’s just a huge array of programs that are established to help support rural areas.”

Hundl noted the census is mailed to anyone that qualifies as a farm, which the USDA defines is “to have $1,000 of sales or potential to have $1,000 in sales anytime between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2017”.

He said the information farmers provide in the census is kept confidential.

“USDA NASS is guided by the most complete federal confidentiality standards,” Hundl said. “We can’t share it with any other federal agency or state entity, so it’s like going into a black box that’s preserved for life.”

The 2012 Census of Agriculture revealed that over three million farmers operated more than two million farms, spanning across 914 million acres, according to a USDA news release.

New farmers or those who did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture by visiting and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You are Counted’ button through June.

The agency would like to see the forms mailed back within about two weeks.

“If need be, we can send a personal interviewer out to help them complete that form,” Hundl said. “It’s so important that we want to strive with every aspect that we can to make sure that we help get that information completed.”

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