Farmers urged to participate in Ag Census

Published 12:47 am Saturday, June 24, 2017

Local farmers and producers are asked to help represent the area by participating in this year’s Census of Agriculture.

Covington County Extension Coordinator Chuck Simon said the major reason for the Census of Agriculture and the need for locals in the agriculture community to participate is to get an accurate count of everyone who makes his or her living from agriculture.

“This in turn gives the agricultural community a better representation in Congress so their needs and concerns can be addressed,” Simon said. “It also puts a realistic number on the economic impact agriculture contributes to Alabama and the nation.

The census is conducted every five year and provides the count of all U.S. farms and ranches and those who operate them.

The agriculture census highlights things such as land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures and other topics.

The last census, which was recorded in 2012, showed there were more than 2 million farms, spanning more than 914 million acres.

That number had declined from the 2007 numbers by 4 percent. But on a high note, ag sales, income and expenses increased between the 2007-2012 period.

Max Runge, an Alabama Extension economist, said that farmers as well as educators and policy makers benefit from the information the census provides.

“The USDA releases multiple reports each month; however, these reports are typically nationwide, or at best, state level reports,” he said. “The Census of Ag collects data down to the county level and the information is specific to each county.”

Runge said the census is detailed, which helps provide data for the current time period and provide benchmarks so that trends and changes in local agriculture can be noted.

The information allows Extension employees to look at trends and changes occurring in agriculture. It also helps determine which programming and research efforts are needed for the specific area. “Data cannot be traced or individual responses identified,” Runge said. “The data are important so that education efforts and researchers focus can reflect agriculture at every level.”

Dr. Paul Brown, Alabama Extension associate director, said it’s important that farmers and producers complete the census.

“The information that is gathered in this census is used in many ways to assist Alabama producers,” he said. “It is important that the information is up to date and as accurate as possible. If the information only reflects a portion of the state’s producers, then it is hard to identify what issues need to be addressed.”

Agriculture, forestry and related industries are big players in Covington County’s economy, a study released a few years ago by the Alabama Extension System and the Alabama Agribusiness Council showed that nearly $200 million was generated through the county’s agricultural and forestry production sector.

Poultry and egg production accounted for 56.2 percent of that. Followed by cattle, which contributed 7.3 percent and peanuts at 5.2 percent.

The county also had $482.4 million in total impacts and some 4,369 jobs.

To ensure you receive a census report form, visit

Click on the “Make Sure You Are Counted” button through this month.

For census purposes, a farm is defined as any place from which $1,000 or more of ag products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during a census year.