Farmers and ranchers in New York will soon have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities by taking part in the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Farmers and ranchers in New York will soon have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities by taking part in the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them.

"The Census remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation," said King Whetstone, Director of the New York Field Office. "It's a critical tool that gives farmers a voice to influence decisions that will shape the future of their community, industry and operation."

The Census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income, expenditures and other topics. This information is used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities from federal, state and local governments to agribusinesses and trade associations. For example, legislators use the data when shaping farm policy and agribusinesses factor it into their planning efforts.

"Your answers to the Census impact farm programs and rural services that support your community," Whetstone said. "So do your part and be counted when you receive your form, because there's strength in numbers that only the Census can reveal."

In 2007, farmers reported a total of 36,352 farms, spanning across 7.17 million acres. This shows a 2.4 percent decrease in the number of New York farms from the previous Census in 2002. New York's farms accounted for $4.42 billion worth of farm products sold in 2007.

The leading counties for cash receipts in 2007 were Suffolk and Wyoming with $243 million and $225 million, respectively. This telling information and thousands of statistics are only available every five years as a direct result of farmer responses to the Census.

NASS will mail out Census forms in late December, to collect data for the 2012 calendar year. Completed forms are due by Feb. 4, 2013. Producers can fill out the Census online via a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov, or return their form by mail. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.

For more information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov. The Census of Agriculture is your voice, your future, your responsibility.