Get Counted!

There are only a few weeks left to respond to the USDA Census of Agriculture survey, and WAgN encourages all farmers to participate.

“For the Census to provide a true picture of the role and importance of women in US agriculture it’s critical that women farmers and ranchers are represented,” says Mary Peabody, Director of the Women’s Agricultural Network in Vermont.

“That’s regardless of the size of your operation, what you grow or raise, and whether you have partners in the business. It all counts!”

Conducted once every five years, the census aims to get a complete and accurate picture of American agriculture. The resulting data are used by farmers, ranchers, trade associations, researchers, policymakers, and many others to help make decisions in community planning, farm assistance programs, technology development, farm advocacy, agribusiness setup, rural development, and more.

“Filling [out the census survey] out is the single most important thing you can do to help women achieve parity in agriculture,” says Audra Mulkern, founder of the Female Farming Project. “We can close the gender gap by closing the data gap.”

Mulkern recently interviewd Barbara Rater, the Director of the Census and Survey Division at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) on the importance of women farmers, farmers of color and indigenous farmers completing the upcoming census.

This year, NASS revised the census forms in response to emerging trends. Changes include questions about on-farm decision-making to help better capture the roles and contributions of beginning farmers, women farmers, and others involved in running a farm enterprise.

“We’ve made some changes to the quesitonnari to better capture the role of women on the farm,” Rater told Mulkern. “Not only are we going to be able to capture the role of up to four people involved in the decision-making on the farm, but we’re also going to be asking about the types of decisions that are being made by these individuals. Are they making decisions about the livestock, or the recordkeeping, or the estate and succession planning. We’re going to really be able to see the role of all those involved in the farm. Women have always contributed on the farm. But this time we’re going to really be able to see what is their contribution.”

Producers can respond to the census online or by mail. The online questionnaire now has timesaving features, such as automatic calculations, and the convenience of being accessible on mobile and desktop devices.

The deadline for responding is February 5, 2018.

Profile photo of Beth Holtzman

About Beth Holtzman

Beth Holtzman is outreach and education coordinator for the UVM New Farmer Project the Women's Agricultural Network.
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