Good Facts Needed for Good Decisions

I’ve heard there’s nothing farmers love more than going to a meeting and finding out a USDA representative will be there.

Part of my job as Virginia’s state statistician is outreach to our producers, our stakeholders, commodity associations and the agricultural community, and since I understand how important our surveys are to this community, I want to get to know as many of you as I can so you all understand the impacts and benefits, too.

We work to provide useful, reliable, accurate data in a timely manner for the agricultural community, and we can’t do that without farmers. The National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS, conducts more than 400 surveys every year to find out everything from production and inventories to prices and management practices. Individual responses to surveys are always kept confidential, and the data is provided in aggregate form so that no individual operation or farmer is identified.

Who gets NASS data, and why should you care? Farmers, policymakers, universities, community planners, agribusinesses, researchers, the USDA, and other federal and state agencies all have free access to the aggregated data.

Data from NASS surveys and the Census of Agriculture spurred many of the provisions within the 2014 Farm Bill. If farmers have taken out operating loans and microloans, disaster programs and Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Programs through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, then they’re benefitting from NASS surveys.

NASS yields are used for farm programs and crop insurance indemnities such as county-level Agricultural Risk Coverage payments and Gross Revenue Insurance Plans.

Crop acreages provide seed, chemical and fertilizer dealers information on supplies needed to meet the crop producers’ demands.

Universities around the country help new and experienced farmers, whether it’s a new farmer learning to drive a tractor or an experienced farmer diversifying his crops.

William Crutchfield, director of Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Program, uses our data to research things such as what commodities might grow best in his region’s soil, and then provides workshops for farmers to learn new techniques and options for their operations.

Benefits to Virginia Producers

The data and statistics derived from surveys have plenty of benefits right here at home. It enables promoters and markets to sell Virginia products by knowing what is being produced.

Production reports attract buyers from other states and countries interested in our Virginia-grown commodities. In 2015, China imported more than $694 million in agricultural purchases while Canada and Switzerland imported $291 million and $204 million in products, respectively.

These included wood products, seafood, and specialty food and beverage items.

Agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry, so reliable, accurate data from NASS on agricultural condition or outlook affects decisions for local and state government.

Our commonwealth revenue is dependent on strong agriculture, and expenditures must be planned accordingly. NASS statistics provide important information and show just how crucial Virginia’s agriculture is to its economy.

These surveys have real impacts on farmers’ livelihoods. We need producers to keep answering our surveys.

I enjoy meeting our farmers and producers as I continue championing our mission of providing useful, reliable, accurate data benefitting the entire agricultural community.

To find out more about the Virginia field office, visit

To sign up to be counted in the Census of Agriculture and other surveys, visit

Source: Herman Ellison, Lancaster Farming

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