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Data Matters

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Inside the Census of Agriculture


By Adam Cline, Supervisory Statistician, NASS Census & Survey Division in Research and Science

Preparing for the 2022 Census of Agriculture

Preparation for a large survey does not happen overnight, in a few weeks, or even a year. When it comes to USDA’s flagship data collection effort, the Census of Agriculture, this is especially true. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) started preparing for the 2022 Census of Agriculture in 2018, when NASS was collecting data for the 2017 Ag Census. NASS’s census, research, and methodology divisions immediately began evaluating content, design, and delivery of the census questionnaire and associated materials for possible improvement. This is the regular cycle of the vital, once every-five-year Census of Agriculture.


The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Even small plots of land - whether rural or urban - growing fruit, vegetables or some food animals count if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year. The Census of Agriculture, taken only once every five years, looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures. For America’s farmers and ranchers, the Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future, and their opportunity.


Why is the Census of Agriculture important?

The Census of Agriculture provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every county in the nation. Through the Census of Agriculture, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture and can influence decisions that will shape the future of U.S. agriculture.


Who uses Census of Agriculture data?

Census of Agriculture data are used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities — federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, and many others.

  • Farmers and ranchers can use Census of Agriculture data to make informed decisions about the future of their own operations.

  • Companies and cooperatives use the data to determine where to locate facilities that will serve agricultural producers.

  • Community planners use the information to target needed services to rural residents.

  • Legislators use census data when shaping farm policies and programs.

Does NASS keep the information provided by individual respondents private?

NASS is bound by law (Title 7, U.S. Code, and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act or CIPSEA, Public Law 107-347) – and pledges to every data provider – to use the information for statistical purposes only. NASS publishes only aggregated data, not individual or farm-specific data.


~ Providing Timely, Accurate and Useful Statistics in Service to U.S. Agriculture ~

USDA, NASS All rights are reserved.


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