From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
It's that time again – time to have your farm and farming information counted as part of the Census of Agriculture. Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service conducts a count of all U.S. farms, ranches and the people who operate them.
Some people are reluctant to share information about their business, and I understand that, but, I hope everyone will take the time to fill out the census form accurately and completely. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential. I can tell you the information being collected is very important for a number of reasons.
The census is the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in North Carolina. It is a chance for farmers to speak up and have some influence on decisions that shape their farms, communities and the industry.
Land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics will be covered by the census.
This year I am serving as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. This organization is made up of agriculture commissioners or secretaries from all 50 states and U.S. territories.
I am excited to be serving in this role at such a critical time in our country. Congress has not approved a farm bill at press time, there is talk about immigration reform and any ag policies being considered will be critical to the future success of our industry.
Having numbers, specific numbers about the scope of a certain industry in our state, along with other industry details will help me in talking with our representatives in Congress and even in our own state legislature about the contributions of agriculture.
We have our work cut out for us this year, bringing a new group of legislators up to speed on the importance of agriculture and agribusiness to our economy. There has been tremendous turnover in the N.C. General Assembly since 2010. In the state House and Senate, 102 of the 170 legislators who were in office three years ago will be gone when the legislature opens its session this year.
And because of redistricting, the makeup of the legislature will be less rural. We all will have to work hard to raise awareness about this industry that supports jobs, creates revenue and feeds and clothes us.
By filling out the Census of Agriculture form, you help us tell agriculture's story in a real way and with real numbers that can paint a powerful financial picture for legislators. In many rural areas of our state, agriculture may be the largest industry in a county, but that is more difficult to realize on a farm-by-farm basis versus in a collective manner. It is important for our legislative leaders to understand how many jobs these small businesses support, the benefit the open land provides to a community and the financial benefit of these companies.
Census forms were mailed out in December and Feb. 4 is the deadline to return the completed forms. You can also fill out the form online through the secure website www.agcensus.usda.gov.