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January 10, 2008   Email to Friend 

Lynne Finnerty
(202) 406-3646
January 10, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- If someone told you that you could influence whether USDA locates or maintains a farm service center in your community, would you do whatever you could to ensure that farmers had access to the services they need?

What about if you could affect the types of loans and government programs available to you? Wouldn't that be great?

If someone told you that a major company that sells farm equipment and supplies was considering opening a store in your area, wouldn't you want to have a say in the company's decision?

Good news! Farmers have a voice in hundreds of marketing and policy decisions, if they participate in the Census of Agriculture.

Federal, state and local governments, and even private companies, use data from the Census of Agriculture to make decisions that can affect your ease of doing business and your family's quality of life. Every five years, USDA asks for your input on what agriculture looks like in the United States. All farmers have to do is complete their census forms and return them to USDA.

USDA sent census forms to farmers in November 2007. Completed forms are due by Feb. 4. USDA is urging all farmers to give agriculture and their communities a voice in their future by completing census forms on time.

Sure, some people can be a little sensitive about giving their information to "Big Brother." But there's a lot to gain and nothing to lose from participating in the ag census.

That's because your information is confidential. It's the law. Even if someone files a Freedom of Information Act request -- the public's most powerful tool in gaining access to government information -- U.S. law says that farmers' responses must not be released. The data can be used for statistical purposes only.

Need more reasons to speak up for agriculture? The Census of Agriculture helps farmers show their value to the nation's economy. The data show the value of farm production and employment. That helps groups like Farm Bureau educate the public about the importance of agriculture as a powerful economic engine.

Without the ag census, we wouldn't know the average age of farmers is more than 55, that more and more women are farm operators or that farms are producing more while the number of farms in the U.S. has fallen from 6.8 million in 1935 to 2.1 million in 2002. Nor would we have fun farm facts like, according to the 2002 census, farmers produced more than 1.6 million gallons of maple syrup, grew more than a hundred thousand acres of cantaloupes and produced almost 40 million pounds of wool.

The census results will start coming out in February 2009. Then, you can go online and see what's changed in agriculture since 2002.

Why should you respond to the Census of Agriculture? Because it's your voice, your future and your responsibility. For more information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.

Lynne Finnerty is the editor of FBNews, a publication of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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