By Dan Marzu
Agricultural Development Educator, UW-Extension
It’s not every day that a walk to the mailbox provides an opportunity for individuals to have a voice in shaping farm programs, boost rural services, and grow the agricultural industry’s future. This year agricultural producers have that opportunity by completing the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The Census of Agriculture is the only consistent and comprehensive source of agricultural data for every state and county in the nation.
The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistic Service (NASS) and provides information covering a wide range of topics including farm operator demographics, dairy and livestock numbers, crop and pasture land acres, input expenses, and farm revenues. The census also includes questions regarding organic farming, conservation practices, renewable energy sources, and internet access. Results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture will be available in early 2014.
Any producer earning $1,000 or more in agricultural product sales have or will be receiving the census in the mail. Federal law requires producers to complete and return the census survey by Feb. 4, 2013 either through mail or by filling it out online at www.agcensus.usda.gov. Federal law also requires the NASS to keep all individual information confidential.
Regardless of the law requirement, agricultural producers are encouraged to take some time to complete the census. The information gathered affects agricultural and land use policy decisions, aids companies in determining locations to establish and expand their businesses, as well as establishes areas where businesses can purchase locally grown produced food and agricultural products. Most importantly the census gives agricultural producers a voice to explain how valuable and important agriculture is to the non-farming residents and decision makers.
Here are examples of some of the statistics from the USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture regarding agriculture in Lincoln County. Out of the 42,570 cropland acres, half of the acres are planted into a forage hay crop. About 10% of the cropland is used for small grain (wheat, oats, barley) production. Over the past 10 years grain corn production has increased 1000 acres and soybean production has increased over 1500 acres. Both commodities account for 13% of Lincoln County’s cropland. There is a growing interest grazing cattle in the county as 112 farms out of the 359 that utilize 13,586 acres of pasture are using a rotational grazing system as a feed source for their cattle. Organic farms have tripled with 13 farms offering a commodity produced organically. 78 farms direct sell to individuals and 22 farms offer a value added product such as Christmas Tree Production which Lincoln County is #3 in the state and Maple Syrup with Lincoln County ranking #9 in state production.
Lincoln County’s agricultural industry is very diverse and important to the county’s economy with agriculture generating $142.1 million or 6% of the county’s total business sales. Lincoln County agriculture also provides over 1300 jobs or more than 8% of the county’s workforce.
I would like to remind the agricultural producers, businesses, and anyone with an interest in Lincoln County agriculture of the town hall meetings taking place on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 1 p.m. at the Town of Russell Town Hall; Saturday, Jan. 12 at 10 a.m. at the Lincoln County Service Center; Monday, Jan. 14, 1 p.m. at the Tomahawk Library; and Monday, Jan. 21, 1 p.m. at the Lincoln County Service Center Building. For more details regarding the meetings please check out the Lincoln County UW-Extension Agriculture Website, lincoln.uwex.edu/agriculture or call me at 715-539-1078.
By Dan Marzu