Conducted every five years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census provides detailed data covering nearly every facet of U.S. agriculture. It looks at land use and ownership, production practices, expenditures and other factors that affect the way farmers and ranchers do business.

In spite of the extended deadline, critics of the ag census suggest the questions posed on the form may be the reason some producers have not yet responded. Surfing across related blogs and web sites on the Internet, for example, many producers are expressing confusion over some of the questions.

One post from a producer at a grape production operation expressed concern over Section 32, titled “Practices.” The producer said the question refers to “practicing alley cropping or silvopasture,” a term he was not familiar with and had to research to understand the question. He complained the census, while overall was simple, was also weighed down by a series of questions that required what he termed “too much time to understand.”

Other census responders posted they had less trouble understanding or completing the census forms. But others are suggesting the extended deadline indicates that more than one producer had trouble with the census and many require more time to digest the information before responding.

According to Internet posts, more troublesome than the census is the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). Only 33,000 producers nationwide were selected to complete this survey, but many of those selected are complaining about the difficulty of the task.

The ARMS survey asks producers to provide data on their operating expenditures, production costs and household characteristics to understand the current financial state of agriculture. Those selected to participate in the ARMS survey do not have to complete the agriculture census form, also prepared by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

According to one post about the ARMS survey, a producer complained about the first 18 pages, two of which were “left intentionally blank for processing purposes” and consisted of 30 questions, of which “most are confusing.”

Regardless of the reason for not sending the Ag Census back to USDA yet, farmers and ranchers may find it easier to complete and return the census by either mail or online by visiting a secure website to speed the process. If you prefer the latter method, log on to www.agcensus.usda.gov.

Easy or not, Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census of Agriculture and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.

For more information about the census, including helpful tips on completing your census form, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828). The Census of Agriculture is your voice, your future, your responsibility.