Why you should care about the Ag census
The USDA is encouraging people to post web banners like these on their sites.
This Monday, February 4th, is the deadline for farmers to send in their agricultural census form. When the data's in, it'll be the first time in 5 years we have new information about the state of American agriculture.
It's a huge moment for agriculture, every bit as important to farming as the general U.S. census is to accurately counting and reflecting all Americans.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – he of the rural America is becoming "less and less relevant" warning – put the stakes plain:
For me, the Census goes well beyond numbers on a page. The Census data represent a critically important picture of American agriculture and rural America. This could not be more important today, in a time when just 16 percent of Americans live in our small towns and rural communities. The fact is, it’s more important than ever to tell the story of a rural America that makes and creates amazing things.
The importance and value of data from the Census of Agriculture goes beyond our nation’s farm fields, ranches, and rural communities – it tells the story of American agriculture for the 98 percent of Americans who don’t live on the farm and more than 80 percent of our citizens who aren’t in rural areas. Data from the Census of Agriculture is used by policymakers and programs that have a coast-to-coast impact, affecting everything from health care, to business and trade, to manufacturing, to natural resources and conservation.
It'll be fascinating to learn how the vast changes in our food system have reshaped American agriculture: increasing competition from imports, growing exports to Asia, a rush toward consolidation in the food industry, ethanol for fuel, the rising number of women running farms, the continued shrinking number of dairy farms in the North Country, and the explosion of interest in locally grown food.