Agriculture is built on iconic images of golden fields and livestock grazing in the pastures but there is also a complex string of business structures that can make information gathering difficult. In May, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, Don Brown, by invitation, discussed the increasing complexity of farm businesses with the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on National Statistics to help create a picture of the American farm family and how many of them conduct their business operations.
“While 97 percent of farmland in the country is owned by families, they still have multiple company structures, just like any other type of business. For example, my family farm includes multiple generations, tax structures, and properties which make sorting and providing data rather difficult and it is so important to provide factual data to help provide a comprehensive snapshot of the state and federal agricultural picture,” said Commissioner Brown.
Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census, to be mailed at the end of this year, is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them. The Census highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. It provides decision makers, from producers to legislators, the ability to make informed decisions.
The recent meeting, at UC Davis in California, was held to elicit insights that may help NASS and the USDA Economic Research Service improve the comprehensiveness and relevance of their surveys, and increase the value of the data to users while making the survey less complex and less time-consuming for those supplying the information. The data is used to drive government programs and services and help producers make decisions, such as which crops to grow.
“The goal of our meeting was to provide a personal history of my family farm and how we’ve provided information to our federal organizations. The information provided is vital to helping shape Colorado’s and our nation’s agricultural community. As farmers and ranchers, the decisions we make affect our businesses, the food system, and our communities. It is vital that we base these decisions on solid and comprehensive data,” said Commissioner Brown.
Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).
For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture and to see how census data are used, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call (800) 727-9540.
Sign up here to receive NASDA News.