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A Census Story from Benton County, Mississippi

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every week USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

The final 2012 Census of Agriculture release is just around the corner. My passion for Census data is rooted not only in the benefits the Census results provide for agriculture as a whole, but also in the value it provides at the local level. To help you see and share all the ways Census data are working for you, USDA is kicking off a dialogue to share how the Census is working for you and your community.

Through Your Census. Your Story., you can become engaged in the Census Story.

How Does Ag Census Work?

Since 1840, the U.S. government has collected important census data on agriculture. The purpose of the Census of Agriculture is to account for all U.S. farms and to summarize the characteristics of those farms and their operators at the national, state, and county levels.

Today, the Census is the only comprehensive source of statistics on American agriculture that provides information by county. So, why do we call the numbers we produce estimates? Aren’t the numbers known exactly? These are the questions I am often asked when discussing the agricultural census.  The fact is that we do not know the numbers exactly so we produce the best estimates we can, given the data we collect.

The Next Generation of Statisticians

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

One of the most exciting aspects of my job as the head of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and an advocate for statistical literacy is to see students coming into the profession of statistics. We are fortunate, according to Bob Rodriguez, past-president of the American Statistical Association (ASA) in a column published in ASA’s AMSTATNEWS, “that the number of students majoring or minoring in statistics is soaring because of positive experiences in AP Statistics courses. The word is out that statistics is a ‘must’.”

Engaging students even earlier than high school is important not only for developing future statisticians but also so that they understand the importance of responding to surveys.  Both private and government statistics, including those about agriculture from my agency, are dependent on voluntary survey response.

New Center Improves Lives of Kentucky Seniors, Creates Jobs

Recently, I spoke at the grand opening of the Daisy Hill Assisted Living facility in Versailles, Ky.  In visiting this facility, I reflected on the future of this and other facilities and their importance as we anticipate the droves of baby boomers seeking to maintain a quality of life as they transition to assisted-living.

The facility was financed through USDA’s Business and Industry Guarantee Loan program.  The $4.5 million loan guarantee to Pinnacle National Bank of Nashville has provided the owners an opportunity to create a beautiful facility for the residents.

On International Women's Day, A Tribute to Women in Agriculture

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. What better day to recognize the incredible achievements of women in agriculture?

Women have always played a key role on the farm or ranch. Traditionally, women often kept the books and ensured the solvency of the business while men ran the day-to-day production operation.

Links to the Past: USDA Releases Historic Census of Agriculture Reports

Did you know that the number of farms in the United States peaked in 1935 at 6,812,350 operations when the average farm size was 154.8 acres? In comparison, the 2007 Census of Agriculture counted 2,204,792 farms with the average farm size of 418 acres. In celebration of 150 years of service to American agriculture, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), in partnership with Cornell University’s Mann Library, are making these and many other historical facts available online at

Putting Rural Development on the Map

Today, the Economic Research Service (ERS) posted a new and innovative interactive mapping tool that makes it easy to visualize and compare rural economic and social conditions among counties, states, and regions. By creating county-level maps of the United States,  users can see how socioeconomic conditions vary across the United States, or within a state.