This time of year, I can’t help but think about cycles – everything coming full circle – from agriculture (planting through harvest) to the holiday season marking the end of one year and the start of the next. Here at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), we are at an exciting time in the five-year cycle of the Census of Agriculture program, which includes the Census of Agriculture itself – NASS’ largest data collection effort that is sent to every known farm and ranch in the country – as well as several smaller but important special studies. Not only are we just nine weeks away from releasing the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture on February 21, we are also about to conduct two special studies: the Census of Aquaculture and the Irrigation and Water Management Survey.
The Census of Aquaculture will mail to farmers this week. Every response matters. The results will inform decisions affecting the sustainability and growth of U.S. aquaculture. Did you know that 48 of our 50 states produce and sell aquaculture products? It’s a billion-dollar industry! Can you name the three states that account for the majority of aquaculture production and sales in the country? If you’re thinking Washington, Mississippi, and Alabama, you are correct. It’s a really good thing that food fish, like catfish and tilapia, is our largest aquaculture product with holiday traditions like the Feast of the Seven Fishes around the corner!
The Irrigation and Water Management Survey provides the only comprehensive information on irrigation activities and water use across U.S. farms, ranches, and horticultural operations (poinsettia, anyone?). In 2013, this survey (then called the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey) found that 229,237 U.S. farms irrigated 55.3 million acres of farmland, applying an average of 1.6 acre-feet of water. That’s a total of 88.5 million acre-feet of water used for irrigation. With technological and biological advancements in agriculture over the years, the upcoming survey, which mails on January 3, should show changes and trends in irrigation. The findings will aid efforts to develop and promote better irrigation practices and the long-term sustainability of water resources. Bonus question: can you name the five states that together account for more than half of our irrigated acres? They are Nebraska, California, Arkansas, Texas, and Idaho.
Expanding on the data collected during the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the results of these two special studies will be available next fall on the NASS website. For more information about special studies or the Census of Agriculture data release, connect with us on Twitter at @usda_nass or visit www.nass.usda.gov/agcensus. Happy holidays, everyone!