County seeks farmers' input in agriculture census

Once every five years the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts a Census of Agriculture to track trends, county by county, across the nation. For this state the census is conducted by the Washington Field Office of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, which is reminding state farmers that census surveys need to be submitted by the end of May.
Census trends are especially important to local governments in their efforts to protect farmland. “Data from the Census of Agriculture was a key starting point in development of the 2006 Agriculture Stategic Plan for Pierce County,” said County Farmbudsman Carrie Sikorski. “The county is eager to review the 2007 data as the new numbers will provide a point of comparision for changes and trends over the past five years.”
According to Rob Allen, analyst in the Executive’s Economic Development Division and member of the Pierce County Farm Board, the Census of Agriculture is the most comprehensive accounting of agricultural activities in communities throughout the United States. “It is the best source of data we have for understanding trends in agriculture, especially for smaller operations such as most of the farms and ranches in Pierce County. The accuracy of that data, which eventually feeds into making policies related to agriculture, depends on each farmer completing the survey and providing accurate information.”
The Census of Agriculture is the responsibility of every farmer and rancher, regardless of the size or type of operation. For census purposes, a farm is 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. Small farms play an increasingly vital role in the overall economic viability of agriculture in urban counties.
Census results are strictly confidential and are used only for statistical purposes. Respondents are guaranteed by federal law that their individual information will be protected from disclosure. The report cannot be used for purposes of taxation, investigation or regulation. The privacy of individual census records is also protected from disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act.
Farmers who completed the 2002 Census but did not receive a 2007 Census in the mail can complete the survey at or call 888-424-7828 for assistance. New farmers can also register with NASS using these contacts. David Knopf, director of the NASS Washington Field Office, said, “Your input counts. When you lend your voice you help ensure a better future for your operation, your family and your community.”