Richmond County ranks 25th in North Carolina counties in total value of agricultural products sold. How do I know this? Because in 2012, our farmers completed a survey called the USDA Census of Agriculture. This valuable information is available to anyone at the click of a button and so much more, such as the fact that we have 277 farmers in Richmond County. We can also learn how our local agricultural industry stacks up against other counties across the state and the nation.
Next month it will once again be Census time! At N.C. Cooperative Extension-Richmond County Center we look forward to receiving the data from the new census every five years to learn about the changes that have occurred in our county, such as the farm production expenses and the amount of acreage devoted to the different crops and livestock. In fact, the census is very important to agriculture because it provides information that is needed for planning and decision making by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many programs that benefit all types of farmers, consumers, transportation, rural development and industries affected by agriculture have their origin in USDA programs and the Farm Bill.
The census also gives farmers a voice, telling their story of how they provide food, fuel, fiber and feed to the world. According to the USDA, “The census is the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every state, county, or county equivalent in the nation. By participating in the census, you help show the value and importance of U.S. Agriculture.”
So, how can you be a part of making a difference and sharing that voice? Participate in the census, every five years.
Here are some of the FAQs about the Ag Census:
1. What is considered a farm to the census? A farm is any location that produced and sold, or normally would sell, $1,000 or more of ag products during the census year.
2. Will the information collected be kept confidential? Yes. Results are tallied and available in aggregate form only. No individual operation can be identified in census data collected.
3. How often is the census done? Every five years there is an Ag Census taken. It is a comprehensive count of all U.S. farms and ranches, and all commodities are included.
4. Do I have to respond to the census? If you receive a Census of Ag form in the mail, response is required by law.
5. When will the census happen? Forms will be mailed in December 2017, and must be completed by the form or online by February 2018. In February 2019, census data will be released by the National Agricultural Statistic Service.
6. Can I respond to the census online? Yes! Visit the following link for online responses to the census: www.agcounts.usda.gov.
7. Where can I go for general info and questions about the census? Questions can be asked by calling 888-424-7828, or by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov. More information can be collected at the N.C. Cooperative Extension-Richmond County Center, located at 123 Caroline Street in Rockingham.
Richmond County farmers use your voice and complete the census!
Susan A. Kelly is Richmond County extension director for the N.C. Cooperative Extension.