Coming to Farmers in January
By Bill Weaver
During the first two weeks of January, 2008, Alabama’s farmers will receive a 2007 Census of Agriculture report form. Conducted every five years by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Census enables agricultural producers in this state to show the American people the value and importance of Alabama’s agriculture and is the only comprehensive, uniform source of agricultural data at the county level.
Not only does the Census give the farmers and ranchers of Alabama the chance to be heard, it also gives them the valuable opportunity to influence key decisions that will shape the direction of American agriculture in general and Alabama agriculture specifically for years to come.
Census data is used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities – federal, state and local governments; agribusinesses; trade associations and many others. For instance, companies and cooperatives use the information to determine the locations of facilities that will serve agricultural producers. Community planners use the information to target needed services to rural residents. USDA uses the information to ensure local service centers are staffed at appropriate levels. Legislators use the information when shaping farm policies and programs. From traditional Alabama crops and livestock like poultry, cattle, cotton and peanuts to newer agricultural ventures such as commercial shrimp and catfish farms, Census data can help producers make informed decisions about the future of their own operations.
The Census offers a tremendous value to all rural stakeholders and the return justifies the time it takes to complete the form. So if you receive a Census report form, please fill it out to the best of your ability and return it. Even if you think you may not qualify as a farm, it is important to fill out the report form anyway. If you have not received a questionnaire by the second or third week in January and you think you may qualify as a farm, a report form will be sent to you by calling the following number: 334-279-3555. Additional information about the 2007 Census of Agriculture can also be found at: www.nass.usda.gov
Remember, the Census is the voice, future and responsibility of Alabama’s farmers.
Bill Weaver is Director of the USDA/NASS Alabama Field Office.