By MICHELE F. MIHALJEVICH
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Slightly more than half the nation’s farmers have returned their 2012 Census of Agriculture forms, according to an official with the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
As of Feb. 11, 52 percent of U.S. producers had filled out their forms through the mail or online, said Jay Johnson, director of the NASS Michigan field office. In the Farm World area, Illinois was at 61 percent; Ohio, 60 percent; Indiana and Iowa, 59 percent; Tennessee, 56 percent and Kentucky and Michigan, 54 percent.
The first deadline to turn in census forms was Feb. 4.
“The numbers are pretty consistent with those in the past for the first deadline,” Johnson said. “We generally try to get about half on the first try. We’re pretty happy with where we are.”
The final response rate for the census is generally 85-90 percent, he said. The Census of Agriculture is done every five years and compiles information such as type and amount of crops grown and animals raised, farm size, farming practices, economics and demographics.
Anyone who produced or sold – or normally would have produced or sold – $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the census year is eligible.
NASS plans to stop taking forms in early June and begin analyzing the data, with the goal of releasing the findings in February 2014, Johnson said. For those who missed the Feb. 4 deadline, NASS will begin mailing a second round of forms soon, and will do a third mailing toward the end of March. They will also begin making phone calls to collect data or clarify answers already provided.
The census is 24 pages long, but not every producer will need to fill out each page, Johnson noted. The form is long because it covers a wide variety of agricultural production.
Nationwide, three million forms were sent out even though some of those farmers are no longer active, he said. Response is mandatory and by law, and non-respondents can be fined $100.
“We’d prefer to have them respond, in order to have a complete report,” Johnson said. “The census gives us the opportunity to have a complete picture of U.S. agriculture every five years. The questions are very broad, high-level questions, such as what are the total expenses and total income.”
For more information, call 888-424-7828 or visit www.agcensus.usda.gov