Hawaii farmers and ranchers have until Monday to respond to the 2022 Census of Agriculture.
In December the U.S. Department of Agriculture mailed out paper questionnaires to all known producers across the country for the census, which is conducted every five years.
The census provides the most comprehensive set of agricultural data for every state, county and U.S. territory.
“The Census of Agriculture is vital to agriculture at the local, county, state, and National level. It provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data,” said Gary Keough, director of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Pacific Regional Field Office, in a news release Tuesday.
Keough in December said the NASS strives to get a 80% response rate for the census. Farms of all sizes are included in the census.
In 2017, when the agricultural census was last conducted, there were 7,328 farms in Hawaii. In 2012 there were 7,000 farms, and in 2007 there were 7,521.
The higher the response rate for the census the better, state Department of Agriculture Chair Sharon Hurd said, perhaps most importantly because of the federal funding that’s dependent on the census counts.
“The (federal government) does so much budgeting of federal funds depending on the census of agriculture,” Hurd said.
In one example, Hurd said the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which the federal government set up to promote the competitiveness of speciality crops in the country, has allocated about $530,000 to Hawaii for fiscal year 2023, but it could be around $1 million if all of the state’s producers responded to the census surveys.
The program provides a baseline of about $243,000 to all states plus additional funding that’s determined in part by the acres of specialty crop production in the state, which is provided via data provided in the agricultural census.
“We don’t know who’s reporting or not reporting, I just have a gut feeling that not everybody’s reporting because that ($530,000) number should be bigger,” Hurd said. “We got half a million, but half of that was given to us.”
Information regarding individual operations is kept confidential and used for statistical purposes only, and data is published “in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation,” the NASS said in its Tuesday news release.
Hawaii producers can respond to the census questionnaires at the USDA’s website, www.agcounts.usda.gov, or via mail.
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