|The 2007 Census of Agriculture – The Voice, Future and Responsibility of AL Farmers|
By Bill Weaver
Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industry Ron Sparks recently issued a proclamation declaring January 2008 as Census of Agriculture Month and for good reason. Agriculture is the number one industry in Alabama contributing billions of dollars to the state’s economy. Accurate agricultural data is essential in allowing the agricultural industry in Alabama and the country to operate efficiently and effectively. The history of collecting data on U.S. agriculture dates back to President George Washington, who was known for keeping meticulous statistical records describing his and other farms. Such information was essential during this time when nine out of every ten Americans lived on a farm. They needed to know what crops they should produce to ensure a plentiful bounty for the people to eat.
Currently, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is sending report forms not only to the estimated 43,000 farmers in Alabama, but to the approximately two million farmers all across the nation. Their Census response can help determine federal support for crucial services that aid local communities. Policy-makers factor Census data into decisions concerning agricultural and rural programs. Community planners use Census information when developing local programs and services. Companies factor Census data into decisions concerning where to locate their operations. Farmers rely on Census data when making critical decisions about their businesses.
The Census offers a tremendous value to rural stakeholders, and the time it takes to complete the form is justified by the benefit it produces. Responding will be even easier this year as producers may fill out the form online via a secure web site.
So if you receive a Census report form, please fill it out accurately and return it by February 4th. Even if you don’t think you qualify as a farm, please fill out the report form and return it anyway. Your responses are protected by law and held strictly confidential. And, most importantly, your participation provides you with a voice in shaping your future.
Bill Weaver is the Director, USDA/NASS Alabama Field Office.