Agricultural leaders and a New Mexico state representative are encouraging farmers and ranchers across eastern New Mexico to participate in the national 2012 Agricultural Census being conducted by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.
On Tuesday, the USDA announced it had started mailing census forms to farmers and ranchers throughout the nation. The census, the announcement said, is "the only source of consistent and comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that in addition to affecting policy decisions, agricultural census information also influences community growth and development. Many companies review census data when determining where to establish or expand their businesses, as well as where they can go for supplies of locally produced food and agricultural products.
Information from the census also helps to explain the many ways in which farming is important to urban or non-farming residents and decision-makers, Vilsack said.
The last agricultural census was conducted in 2007.
Patrick Kircher, Roosevelt County's Agricultural Extension agent, said accurate, thorough information in the census is important to farmers and ranchers.
"The more knowledge you have," he said, "the better decisions you make."
In addition, he said, as the population of farmers and ranchers declines, it becomes more important to "allow every voice to be heard. Knowing the state of agriculture is important."
Edmund Gomez, assistant department head and professor in the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service's Extension Economics Department, said that as a farmer, "I intend to answer it myself."
He said all farmers and ranchers should respond.
"Tell them it's important," he said.
State Rep. Dennis Roch of Texico recognized that some farmers and ranchers may consider the census forms to be an intrusion, but said the information is kept confidential and provides useful in producing benefits for farmers and ranchers.
All farmers and ranchers should receive a Census form in the mail by early January, the USDA's announcement said. Completed forms are due by Feb. 4. Farmers can return their forms by mail or online by visiting a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov.
Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.
More information about the Census is available by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov or by calling 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828).