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Tri-State farmers urged to complete census forms

January 08, 2008

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass is urging state farmers to watch their mailboxes for Census of Agriculture forms, which are scheduled to be mailed at the end of this month. Completed forms are due back by Feb. 4.

Producers can return their forms by mail or, for the first time, they have the convenient option of filling out the census online via a secure Web site.

"West Virginia was number three in the country in terms of response rate in the last census in 2002, and I encourage all our farmers to reply this year," Douglass said. "The census gives all farmers a voice, regardless of the size of their operation, and provides decision-makers at all levels with valuable information about the state of agriculture throughout the United States."

The states with higher response percentages than West Virginia in the last census were Alaska, with 600 farms, and Rhode Island with 800. West Virginia has 21,200 farms, and leads the nation in the percentage of family-owned farms.

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"To have that level of response from a comparatively large number of operations really says something about the farmers in West Virginia," said Dale King, director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service - West Virginia Field Office, at the West Virginia Department of Agriculture's (headquarters at Guthrie.

King stressed that census data has a multitude of uses: Government leaders use it for decisions concerning agricultural and rural programs. Companies may use census data when determining where to locate their operations and farmers themselves look at census data to formulate their own production strategies.

Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the census is a complete count of the nation's farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures and other topics. It provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation.

For more information about the 2007 Census of Agriculture, or if you are a farmer and did not receive a census, call the West Virginia Field Office at 800-535-7088.

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