In spite of notable efforts on the part of the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) and others; American Indians continue to be the one of the most underrepresented groups in the Census of Agriculture. While the number of American Indians participating in the Census increased tremendously since the Ag Census moved to USDA; we still have plenty of work to do and it is up to us.
As a result of this under-representation; Indian Country is faced with many challenges created by policy--created without our input--that our non-Indian counterparts do not have to struggle with.
The Census of Agriculture, which happens every five years, provides the data that is used when making national ag policy, determining funding levels, and compiling production estimates. If we, as a community, do not respond, then the data does not reflect our numbers and our needs.
The Census is a complete count of all U.S. farmers, ranchers and producers, and the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for available at the Tribal Reservation, Nation, or Village level.
While response to the Census is required by law, the penalties imposed by the Government; which are rarely enforced; pale in comparison to the adverse economic impact to our economies caused by Ag policy, funding, and staffing decisions that are not reflective of Indian Country needs.
While there are some sectors within the industry, that for various reasons, choose not to participate; by embracing the opportunity to be heard through the Census, we are taking advantage of one the important ways to help our communities. The time required to complete the 100% confidential questionnaire – less than an hour -- will provide the all three branches with data it that will absolutely be used to make decisions on our behalf.
The future is ours to shape. It is not too late to fill out the Census. For more information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.