Every year, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimates acreage, yield, production, price and value for several of the major commodities produced in each state. In Arizona, annual estimates are made for cotton, durum wheat, alfalfa, cattle inventory, milk production, and more. What about the relatively minor commodities like sorghum, potatoes, or grapes? These commodities are counted every five years in the Census of Agriculture. 

The Census of Agriculture provides answers to questions, “How many acres of sorghum were grown in Arizona in 2017?” (Answer: ~13,500) How about potatoes? (~3,400) Grapes? (~1,340) Since these commodities are not in Arizona’s annual estimating program, only the USDA’s Census of Agriculture provides answers to these questions.

How many female producers are there in Arizona? (~16,000 or 49% of all producers) How many young producers, those 35 and younger? (~2,500 or 7.6%) How many American Indian producers? (~19,300 or 59%) How many of Arizona’s farms have less than 100 acres? (~14,000 or 74%, accounted for about 10% of Arizona’s total value of sales in 2017.) How many Arizona farms have more than 2,000 acres? (~1,300 or 6.8%, accounted for just under 50% of Arizona’s total value of sales.)

Getting to A Complete Count to Show Our Value

The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. It looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income, and expenditures.

The Census of Agriculture provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every county in the nation. Through the Census of Agriculture, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture and can influence decisions that will shape the future of U.S. agriculture.

“So, what, big deal, who cares?” one might ask. The answers to the questions posed earlier may not be important to you directly, but the information may be very important to someone else. The Census of Agriculture data is used by those who serve producers and rural communities — federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, for example. Companies and cooperatives use the data to determine where to locate facilities that will serve agricultural producers. Community planners use the information to target needed services to rural residents. Legislators use census data when shaping farm policies and programs.

Over the next couple of months, Arizona enumerators will be asking producers questions about statistically sampled plots of land across Arizona. This activity is the normal preliminary work that needs to be completed in order to have a successful 2022 Census of Agriculture.

The 2022 Census of Agriculture is scheduled to be mailed out at year’s end to known producers and potential producers across the United States. Those who receive a form are encouraged to respond electronically, the most efficient and least costly to taxpayers. Those producers who have not responded will be contacted either by phone or in-person by enumerators beginning mid-February. The results of the 2022 Census of Agriculture will be released in early 2024.

For the 2017 Census of Agriculture, Arizona had the 6th highest response rate nationally. We hope the Arizona producers respond similarly, if not better, to the 2022 Census of Agriculture. For Arizona’s farmers and ranchers, the Census of Agriculture is about their voice, their future, and their opportunity.