America’s farmers and ranchers will soon be able to make their voices heard and help shape the future of agriculture for years to come.

That opportunity will come to their mailboxes in the form of the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 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, expenses and other important topics. It provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation.

“The Census of Agriculture provides information that is not available anywhere else – information that benefits agricultural producers and their communities in many ways,” says Becky Cross, director of the Arkansas field office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“For instance, policy-makers factor census data into decisions concerning agricultural and rural programs. Community planners use census data to target needed services to rural residents. Companies rely on census data when determining where to locate their operations. And farmers, themselves, can use census data to help make critical decisions about their businesses.”

NASS will mail out census forms on Dec. 28 to collect data from the 2007 calendar year. Completed forms are due by Feb. 4.

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

“We’re committed to making this census the best count ever. It’s about the future of agriculture and rural communities in our state. Regardless of how large or small their operation is, or what kinds of products they produce, Arkansas farmers and ranchers will help themselves and their communities when they fill out the Census of Agriculture and return it promptly,” Cross says.

“We want farmers and ranchers to know: the Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future and their responsibility.”

For more information about the 2007 Census of Agriculture, go to www.agcensus.usda.gov.