Protect Family Farmers by Responding to the Census of Agriculture
By Ralph Paige, Rudy Arredondo, Zachary Ducheneaux and Brian Thomas
We represent thousands of African American, Hispanic and Native American farmers in the United States and we recognize the importance of as many of our farmers being counted in the agriculture census. It’s with information from the census that the nation learns about the importance of the work we do. This is why we are appealing to everyone who as not yet sent in their census form to please do so. There is still time.
In fact, the Census of Agriculture, taken every five years, is a count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. It looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditure. For America’s farmers, it is their voice, their future and their responsibility.
Through the Census, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture, and they can help influence the decisions that will shape the future of American agriculture for years to come.
Because of reporting from farmers in past census reports, Congress has passed farm bills that reflect the needs of our communities and family farmers. This includes Beginning Farmer programs, the popular Hoop House initiative, value-added production programs and the micro-lending program. Most of these programs were created as a direct result of census statistics.
Today, the 2012 Census of Agriculture is still underway for a few short weeks across our nation and right here in our community. What will the current Census of Agriculture tell us about the changes that have occurred over the past five years? We need everyone to be counted to ensure the information revealed is an accurate representation for all!
The last Census also revealed an increase of women farmers, Hispanic farmers, Asian farmers and African American farmers. And there are substantially more farmer’s markets and urban markets. More Americans, regardless of background, are seeking locally grown food.
Because of Census data we know there are more niche markets to serve American tastes and interests. For example, we are witnessing more chilies and corn grown for the Latin community; snow peas for Asian meals; goat meat for our African, Caribbean, Central American and Asian communities; and a variety of beans and corn for Native American consumers. These crops, of course, are available for all Americans regardless of their origin.
A diversity of crops is vital for the economy, and our farmers must continue to grow those crops that our people want to eat on a daily basis. But for farmers to be protected, they must be counted in the Agriculture Census.
We realize that many farmers are concerned about revealing private information about their operations and income. However, regulations prevent the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) from revealing information about individual farmers to any other government agency or private entities. To do so would result in a fine or jail time.
Census of Agriculture data is critically important to protecting the future of our farming community in America. All producers need to complete their agriculture census forms. We urge you to take action today - there’s still time.
Farmers may return their forms by mail or online by visiting the secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov. The deadline to respond to the Census of Agriculture is May 31st, 2013. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential. For more information about the Census, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828).
By responding to the Census, producers can help themselves, their communities and all of U.S. agriculture.
Ralph Paige is executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. Arredondo is president of the National Latino Farmers &Ranchers Trade Association. Zachary Ducheneaux is an Indian rancher and Tribal Technical Assistance Network Program Director for the Intertribal Agriculture Council and Brian Thomas is a rancher at Duck Valley Indian Reservation, Nevada/Idaho.
American Forum 5/2013
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund was created in 1967. With offices in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina, it works to assist, primarily, Black farmers in holding on to their land through cooperative economic development along with assistance with marketing and access to farm programs.
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association