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Sceptical Black and Minority Farmers Urged To Participate In USDA Census Of Agriculture

Friday, May 10, 2013 15:11
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Protect Family Farmers by Responding to the Census of Agriculture

By Ralph Paige, Rudy Arredondo, Zachary Ducheneaux and Brian Thomas

We represent thousands of African American, Hispanic and Native American farmers in the United States and we recognize the importance of as many of our farmers being counted in the agriculture census. It’s with information from the census that the nation learns about the importance of the work we do. This is why we are appealing to everyone who as not yet sent in their census form to please do so. There is still time.

In fact, the Census of Agriculture, taken every five years, is a count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. It looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditure. For America’s farmers, it is their voice, their future and their responsibility.

Through the Census, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture, and they can help influence the decisions that will shape the future of American agriculture for years to come.

Because of reporting from farmers in past census reports, Congress has passed farm bills that reflect the needs of our communities and family farmers. This includes Beginning Farmer programs, the popular Hoop House initiative, value-added production programs and the micro-lending program. Most of these programs were created as a direct result of census statistics.

Today, the 2012 Census of Agriculture is still underway for a few short weeks across our nation and right here in our community. What will the current Census of Agriculture tell us about the changes that have occurred over the past five years? We need everyone to be counted to ensure the information revealed is an accurate representation for all!

The last Census also revealed an increase of women farmers, Hispanic farmers, Asian farmers and African American farmers.  And there are substantially more farmer’s markets and urban markets. More Americans, regardless of background, are seeking locally grown food.

Because of Census data we know there are more niche markets to serve American tastes and interests. For example, we are witnessing more chilies and corn grown for the Latin community; snow peas for Asian meals; goat meat for our African, Caribbean, Central American and Asian communities; and a variety of beans and corn for Native American consumers. These crops, of course, are available for all Americans regardless of their origin.

A diversity of crops is vital for the economy, and our farmers must continue to grow those crops that our people want to eat on a daily basis. But for farmers to be protected, they must be counted in the Agriculture Census.

We realize that many farmers are concerned about revealing private information about their operations and income. However, regulations prevent the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) from revealing information about individual farmers to any other government agency or private entities. To do so would result in a fine or jail time. MOREHERE

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