Feds again seek census info from farmers about ag conditions

by George Jared ([email protected]) 252 views 

Arkansas had record soybean and cotton yields in 2017, and corn yields were significantly higher, according to the United States Agricultural Department. Information about these farms and farmers in the state is critical for decision makers in Washington D.C., and the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service has sent out a questionnaire asking farmers for data.

The survey is conducted nationwide every five years. It examines land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income, and expenditures. The deadline to complete the survey is Feb. 5.

“The Census of Agriculture provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation,” Eugene Young, regional director USDA-NASS said. “We work hard to make the survey accessible and convenient for farmers, and have staff ready to assist with questions or problems while completing any part of the process.”

NASS conducts hundreds of surveys each year gauging production, economics, demographics and the environment. Recent NASS data revealed Arkansas was fifth in the U.S. among states with the highest gross cash income from commercial farms, showing $1.3 million per farm in 2016. California ranked first with $2.9 million, followed by Florida with $2.2 million. Washington was third with $2 million, just a head of Texas with $1.9 million.

Arkansas’s is the top rice producing state in the country. The state produced about half the 217 million hundredweight of rice harvested nationwide, the survey revealed. Soybeans in the state set a record with 51 bushels per acre last year, a four bushel increase from 2016. It’s the Natural State’s largest crop with more than 1.3 million acres dedicated. The top soybean yield producing states Illinois at 58 bushels per acre, followed Nebraska at 57.5 bushels per acre. Soybean yields were at 49.1 bushels per acre, and all-time high in 2017.

Cotton farmers had record yields in 2017, as well. About 1,205 pounds of cotton was harvested per acre, 130 pounds more than in 2016. It had the third highest yield among all state trailing only California (1,392 pounds per acre) and Arizona (1,455 pounds per acre). Arkansas ranks seventh overall among cotton producing states.

Information gleaned through these surveys is critical in the decision making process used by lawmakers at the federal level. Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward encouraged the state’s farmers to take an active role in the survey.

“Agriculture is Arkansas’s largest industry and it is important that we have reliable data to quantify the many ways that our diverse production contributes to the economy,” Ward said. “The Census of Agriculture, and other annual surveys conducted by NASS, provide invaluable data that helps us to understand how to best serve our farmers and ranchers throughout the state.”

Arkansas has 49,346 family owned farms. The agriculture sector contributes $16 billion to the state economy each year. The state has 14.5 million usable farm acres, and 18.8 million forest land acres.

To participate in the Census of Agriculture farmers and ranchers receive a questionnaire by mail. They may complete the survey in print or electronic format. A resource guide is available here with Census questions, instructions, and more. Find the 2012 Census of Agriculture Report, here. Findings from the 2018 Census of Agriculture is estimated by NASS to be available by spring of 2019.