USDA will begin conducting the first national On-Farm Energy Production Survey this week.

The most recent agriculture census counted more than 20,000 farms and ranches that were producing renewable energy via solar panels, wind turbines and methane digesters. This spring's survey will further explore how this energy is generated and used.

"This survey is a chance for farmers and ranchers to highlight the steps they are taking to produce renewable energy within their operations, which is helping to reduce our dependence on energy from foreign sources," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The survey results will provide agricultural producers, policymakers and the public with factual data about the economic and environmental implications of on-farm energy production."

USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is mailing the survey forms to farm and ranch operators nationwide who indicated on the 2007 Census of Agriculture they were generating renewable energy. Recipients are required to respond by May 24 and NASS will publish the survey results in February 2011.

The On-Farm Energy Production Survey is the first step in a comprehensive effort by NASS to collect and publish detailed data on the agriculture sector's production and use of renewable energy.

"This particular survey focuses on the use of wind turbines, solar panels and anaerobic digesters," said Hubert Hamer, chair of NASS's Agricultural Statistics Board. "But we will be expanding our data collection efforts in future years, looking at a full spectrum of issues related to the agriculture sector's production and use of renewable energy."

Survey respondents are guaranteed by law (Title 7, U.S. Code) that their individual information will be kept confidential. NASS uses the information only for statistical purposes and publishes data only in tabulated totals. More information about the On-Farm Energy Production Survey is at http://www.agcensus.usda.gov or call (888) 424-7828.