Montana farmers and ranchers are being asked to fill out an important survey to help paint an accurate picture of American agriculture: the Census of Agriculture.
“By filling it out you let your voice be heard. You let everyone know how Montana’s agriculture economy is. Basically, telling us your story,” said Eric Sommer, a U.S. Department of Agriculture statistician.
Conducted every five years, the Census of Agriculture is the USDA’s largest data collection endeavor and serves a very important role.
“The census really is the building block for all of USDA’s programs. That’s the basis and where we determine whether or not a program is going to be funded or not be funded,” Sommer said.
State governments also use the Census of Agriculture.
“It’s kind of the most important thing holding everything together and getting our programs out there. It’s really the farmers’ main voice out there to have county-level data in the U.S., so it’s used for a lot of things” says Sommer.
Information confidentiality is a top priority.
“The data is all combined. So, we’re not going to release an individual’s data. We’re not sharing it with the IRS, and we’re not sharing it with the FSA and we’re not using it to come after you. We’re using it to do a county-level number, a district level number and a state number,” Sommer said.
Farm and ranch operations of all sizes which produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural product in 2017 are included in the census.
“Well, I would just like to thank all Montana producers and all your participation and hard work. We can’t share your voice and your story without you participating and helping us out,” said Sommer.
Collected in service to American agriculture since 1840, responding to the Census of Agriculture is required by law so please do your part for Montana’s agriculture industry.