We live in a data-driven world. But what good is data if it is not accurate?
This fall, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service is conducting the 2022 Census of Agriculture. I encourage you to complete a questionnaire that will help ensure Missouri agriculture is being properly counted and represented.
Every five years, the census of agriculture offers uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in Missouri and across the nation. This is a way our producers can show the value and importance of Missouri agriculture, and influence decisions that will shape the future of the industry.
NASS will mail the 2022 Census of Agriculture materials in November and December to collect data for the 2022 calendar year. Producers can then respond online or by returning their completed questionnaire by mail.
The census looks at land use and ownership, producer characteristics and production practices, among other data. Even small plots of land, rural or urban, count if $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced or sold from the land during the census year.
All data is confidential, and NASS will only publish aggregated data so that no individual or farm can be identified. When the complete report is released in early 2024, state and county-level data will be included.
Time to update data
If you are like me, 2017 — the year of the most recent census collection — seems like ages ago. Yet that is the most current data available. New data topics in the 2022 census reflect trends and changes in agriculture and help ensure that the census continues to provide relevant agriculture data.
Notable changes for 2022 include questions about the use of precision agriculture, hemp production and access to the internet. Anyone who has heard me speak over the past six years knows that access to affordable high-speed internet for every Missouri farm is one of my greatest passions. Results from this census can help generate more funding and opportunity for growth to make sure all farmers have the chance to connect.
My team at the Missouri Department of Agriculture uses census data from 2017 on a regular basis. As an example, we use the data as our baseline when applying for grant funding. Elected officials, both state and federal, also use the data as they create legislation important to agriculture. Accurate information is essential for Missouri to receive a fair shake alongside other states.
Census reveals ag diversity
I am so proud of the agriculture in our state. Our versatility and diversity are so unique. We are in the top 10 nationally in 12 different areas:
- number of farms
- hay production
- beef cows
- broiler chickens
- horses and ponies
While there are other states with more top 10 placings, the breadth of Missouri agriculture is what makes me most proud.
I have no doubt that Missouri agriculture is a major player in other areas as well. For instance, specialty crop production continues to explode in all regions of the state. Accurate information from this census will give us a much better idea of Missouri production for such items as Christmas trees, vegetables, nuts, floriculture, honey, berries and other fruits. These important facets of agriculture can often be underrepresented simply because of a lack of awareness that they exist.
If you are one of the producers who receive the 2022 Census of Agriculture, please consider completing the questionnaire. We must continue to tell our story and show what Missouri’s farmers and ranchers are doing to help feed a growing world.
Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence, Mo.