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By Kate Hansen
Policy associate Center for Rural Affairs 

Every operation counts as USDA begins ag census


Large or small, all farms and ranches are important to our country’s agriculture sector.

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service conducts the Census of Agriculture. The goal is to get a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Information collected includes land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures.

The census sets out to capture information for operations of all sizes. According to NASS, producers who own small plots of land where fruits, vegetables, and/or animals are grown should also participate, if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold or normally would have been. This includes both rural and urban areas.

Data gathered during the census, which is expected to be released in 2024, is used for analysis and in decision-making that impacts the nation's producers and USDA programs. While important for overview purposes, any personal information about an operation is kept confidential.

The USDA isn’t the only agency that uses this information. At the Center for Rural Affairs, this data is often used in analysis, studies and encouraging decision-makers to support key programs. Knowing 11% of all farmers are also veterans, we advocate for programs to help educate and train beginning veteran farmers and ranchers and help minimize barriers to entry. This data was made possible by the census and the producers who filled it out.

We encourage farmers and ranchers who receive census forms from NASS to complete them and for those who have never participated to sign up to receive the census at by the June 30 deadline. Doing so will help paint a fuller, more accurate, picture of our nation’s agricultural producers and better inform decisions that impact them.


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