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Census of Agriculture needs more responses

May 10, 2018 GMT

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The 2017 Census of Agriculture response rate for Nebraska is low, according to the USDA.

Farmers and ranchers across the country were supposed to respond to the five year census in early February.

“It was about 40 percent at that point in time,” Nicholas Streff tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Streff is the deputy regional director for the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service in Nebraska.

He says the national rate is now above 50 percent, and they are contacting producers again.

“We’re doing our phone follow up right now, our personal interview follow up right now, and also doing a few targeted mailings to continue to encourage people to respond,” Streff explains.

He thinks there are a few reasons why producers may not be responding in a timely manner.

“They get a lot of phone calls, not just from the USDA, but from other firms and companies looking for data as well,” he says. “So, I think sometimes the USDA-related stuff could get lost in the shuffle.”

The survey is lengthy, so Streff says if producers waited to file their taxes in April, they may still be working on the Census.

Data gathered includes demographic information on farmers and ranchers as well as the size of their operation, if they work the land or rent it out, and what they raise.

Streff says it is important for producers, and their futures, to respond to the Census.

“This is when our policymakers and people who are looking to develop rural programs, they can look at the Census and pull this data and say, ‘We need to focus on more, fast internet speeds in this group of counties, or we need to focus more of our specialty crop blocks on this part.’”

The cut-off date to return the Census is in late July, according to Streff. Data will be published next February.