HARDIN COUNTY - The nation's farmers will soon receive the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them.
"It is important that all farmers respond", says Gene McCluer, Hardin County Agricultural Extension Educator. "The Census remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation. It's a critical tool that gives farmers a voice to influence decisions that will shape the future of their community, industry and operation."

"We can learn a lot about our county or the state of Ohio from the Ag Census" McCluer stated. "The Census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures and other topics. This information is used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities from federal, state and local governments to agribusinesses and trade associations. Legislators use the data when making farm policy and agribusinesses factor it into their planning efforts. A number of times over the years, I have helped individuals or companies search the Ag Census for the number of acres or bushels of various crops or numbers of livestock in Hardin County, as they considered changes or a new opportunities for their business."

The last Ag Census in 2007, showed U.S. farmers with over two million farms, spanning across more than 922 million acres. This showed nearly a four percent increase in the number of U.S. farms from the previous Census in 2002. These new farms tended to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also worked at jobs off-farm. Working on those farms were more than one million women farmers, a 19 percent increase from 2002. This telling information and thousands of statistics are only available every five years as a direct result of farmer responses to the Census.

The Census also helps tell the whole story of U.S. agriculture. According to McCluer,"Without the information collected we wouldn't know that 3 million farmers in the United States, only one percent of our total population, provide feed, fuel, and fiber to the other 99 percent. While that seems like a huge task, we know that farmers are stepping up to the challenge because the data indicates that U.S. agriculture is growing."

Census forms will be mailed out in late December, and responses are due by Feb. 4. Producers also have the option to complete their forms online. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential. For more information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.