By Ryan Milhollin
Forms for the 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture's Census of Agriculture are due Feb. 5.
University of Missouri Extension economists urge farmers to complete the census. It can be returned by mail or securely submitted online at agcensus.usda.gov.
MU Extension economist Ryan Milhollin says federal, state and local governments as well as agribusinesses, researchers, trade associations and others use the data to serve farmers and rural communities.
It is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial data for every county in the U.S., Milhollin says. USDA conducts the survey every five years.
Law requires response. "Even if you are no longer farming, please return the census form," says Robert Garino, USDA statistician based in Columbia.
Otherwise, USDA follows up with mailed questionnaires, phone calls or visits from a USDA enumerator.
Milhollin says information from the Census of Agriculture shapes programs, including MU Extension programs, that benefit many farm groups. It gives a picture of the economic impact of agriculture in the country.
Milhollin says data helps policymakers see emerging trends such as young and beginning farmers and ranchers; women, veteran and minority farmers and ranchers; specialty crops; and organic production. This helps legislators make decisions that protect the future of agriculture, he says.