Cape Gazette
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Census of agriculture to gather critical information

Dec 23, 2012

Delaware’s farmers are being encouraged to complete the 2012 Census of Agriculture, a vitally important tool that helps agriculture advocates, policymakers and others make informed decisions about the future of agriculture.

For the first time, the census will gather specific data about conservation techniques, including conservation tillage, cover crops and conservation easements, to show the impact of farmers’ positive environmental practices. That information is vital to telling the complete story of agriculture’s contributions, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee said in urging farmers to complete the census.

“The census is critical to helping everyone understand the scale and strength of Delaware agriculture, and it is critical that farmers complete it,” said Kee, who recently recorded a public service announcement about the census. “Farming is Delaware’s No. 1 industry, worth $8 billion, and the census is the best tool to help us gather information about it. It is an important snapshot of our industry’s growth and successes.”

The census, completed every five years, is conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Forms are being mailed out now, and completed forms are due by Monday, Feb. 4, through the mail or online. Data from the census will be released in early 2014 and can be analyzed on the state, county or ZIP code level.

The census gathers information on farm operators, demographics, production practices, income, expenditures, land use and other topics. Policymakers, legislators and agribusiness vendors use the local data to serve farmers and rural communities, while farmers use the state and national data to improve marketing of their products. In the 2007 census, 2,546 Delaware farmers reported $1.1 billion in sales.

“The census remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation,” said Renee Picanso, director of NASS’s Census and Survey Division. “It’s a critical tool that gives farmers a voice to influence decisions that will shape the future of their community, industry and operation.”

The census is also the source for such information as the number of female farmers, the number of people living on farms and the amount of farm sales made directly to consumers. The census defines farms as operations that produce and sell, or have the potential to sell, at least $1,000 in agricultural products during 2012. Participation in the census is required by law.

Census responses are confidential and used only for data collection. Information about individual farms is not released.

Farmers can get more information and complete the census at http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/index.php.

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