The first agriculture census in the United States of America was taken in 1840 as part of the sixth decennial census of population. After the 1920 census, the census interval was changed to every five years, resulting in a separate mid-decade census of agriculture being conducted in 1925, 1935, and 1945. The agriculture census continued to be taken as part of the decennial census through 1950. From 1954 to 1974, the census was taken for the years ending in 4 and 9. In 1976, Congress changed the five-year data collection cycle to years ending in 2 and 7, to coincide with other economic censuses, cycle that continues to this day. The 2012 Census of Agriculture (CA) is the twenty-eighth federal census of agriculture and the fourth to be conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
For 156 years (1840 - 1996), the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census was responsible for collecting census of agriculture data. The 1997 Appropriations Act contained a provision that transferred the responsibility for the census of agriculture from the Bureau of the Census to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The 2007 Census of Agriculture is the 27th Federal census of agriculture and the third conducted by NASS. The first agriculture census was taken in 1840 as part of the sixth decennial census of population. The agriculture census continued to be taken as part of the decennial census through 1950. A separate middecade census of agriculture was conducted in 1925, 1935, and 1945. From 1954 to 1974, the census was taken for the years ending in 4 and 9. In 1976, Congress authorized the census of agriculture to be taken for 1978 and 1982 to adjust the data reference year so that it coincided with other economic censuses. This adjustment in timing established the agriculture census on a 5-year cycle collecting data for years ending in 2 and 7. Agriculture census data are used to:
• Evaluate, change, promote, and formulate farm and rural policies and programs that help agricultural producers;
• Study historical trends, assess current conditions, and plan for the future;
• Formulate market strategies, provide more efficient production and distribution systems, and locate facilities for agricultural communities;
• Make energy projections and forecast needs for agricultural producers and their communities;
• Develop new and improved methods to increase agricultural production and profitability;
• Allocate local and national funds for farm programs, e.g. extension service projects, agricultural research, soil conservation programs, and land-grant colleges and universities;
• Plan for operations during drought and emergency outbreaks of diseases or infestations of pests.
• Analyze and report on the current state of food, fuel, feed, and fiber production in the United States.
Kind of Data
Census/enumeration data [cen]
Unit of Analysis
The scope of the study includes agriculture (including forestry), livestock, income sources, infrastructure and organization affiliations.
Agriculture & Rural Development
Forests & Forestry
Land (policy, resource management)
The statistical unit for the CA 2012 was the farm, an operating unit defined as any place from which USD 1 000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year.
Producers and sponsors
National Agricultural Statistics Service
United States Department of Agriculture
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
i. Methodological modality for conducting the census
The classical approach was used in the CA 2012.
NASS maintains a list of farmers and ranchers from which the CML is compiled.
iii. Complete and/or sample enumeration methods
The CA 2012 was an enumeration of all known agricultural holdings meeting the USDA definition of a farm.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Mail Questionnaire [mail]
Data Collection Notes
Data collection was done primarily through the mail-out/mail-back method; however, this was supplemented with Electronic Data Reporting (EDR) via the Internet, as well as personal enumeration for special classes of records in the census operations. Personal enumeration involved the use of both CATI and CAPI.2 Beginning in March 2013, CATI was used to follow up on nonresponse for NML nonrespondents.
Seven regionalized versions of the main report form (questionnaire) were used for the CA 2012. The report form versions were designed to facilitate reporting on the crops most commonly grown within each report form region. Additionally, an American Indian report form was developed to facilitate reporting for operations on reservations in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. All of the forms allowed respondents to write in specific commodities that were not listed on their form.
- Land owned
- Land use
- Conservation programs and crop insurance
- Field crops
- Bananas, coffee, pineapples and plantain crops
- Hay and forage crops
- Nursery, Greenhouse, Floriculture, Sod and tree seedlings
- Vegetables and melons
- Hydroponic crops
- Root crops
- Cattle and calves
- Hogs and pigs
- Other animals and livestock products
- Value of sales
- Organic agriculture
- Federal and commonwealth agricultural program payments
- Income from farm-related sources
- Production expenses
- Farm labour
- Fertilizer and chemicals applied
- Market value of land and buildings
- Machinery, equipment and buildings
- Type of organization
- Operator characteristics
The CA 2012 covered all 16 core items recommended to be collected in the WCA 2010. See questionnaire in external materials.
1. DATA PROCESSING AND ARCHIVING
The completed forms were scanned and Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) was used to retrieve categorical responses and to identify the other answer zones in which some type of mark was present. The edit system determined the best value to impute for reported responses that were deemed unreasonable and for required responses that were absent. The complex edit ensured the full internal consistency of the record. After tabulation and review of the aggregates, a comprehensive disclosure review was conducted. Cell suppression was used to protect the cells that were determined to be sensitive to a disclosure of information.
2. CENSUS DATA QUALITY
NASS conducted an extensive program to follow-up all non-response. NASS also used capture-recapture methodology to adjust for under-coverage, non-response, and misclassification. To implement capture-recapture methods, two independent surveys were required --the 2012 Census of Agriculture (based on the Census Mail List) and the 2012 June Agricultural Survey (based on the area frame). Historically, NASS has been careful to maintain the independence of these two surveys.
The complete data series from the 2012 Census of Agriculture is available from the NASS website free of charge in multiple formats, including Quick Stats 2.0 - an online database to retrieve customized tables with Census data at the national, state and county levels. The 2012 Census of Agriculture provides information on a range of topics, including agricultural practices, conservation, organic production, as well as traditional and specialty crops.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),
National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS)
Census and Survey Division
Address: 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250.
Telephone: (+1) 800 7279540
See also https://www.ocio.usda.gov/privacy-office
Disclaimer and copyrights
The user of the data acknowledges that the original collector of the data, the authorized distributor of the data, and the relevant funding agency bear no responsibility for use of the data or for interpretations or inferences based upon such uses