2016 Census on Agriculture About to Get Underway

It’s time for Canadian farmers to stand up and be counted in the 2016 Census of Agriculture.

It’s interesting to note that farmers have been providing information about their businesses for well over 140 years (since 1871); it’s all part of an effort to provide a better understanding of Canadian agriculture. In the last census, in 2011, a total of 205,730 farms were recorded across Canada.

In the next few weeks, farmers will receive a letter with instructions on how to complete the Census of Agriculture questionnaire.

Every five years, since 1871, Statistics Canada has conducted the “Census of Agriculture.” As is the purpose with other census initiatives, this is done to provide policy makers as well as those in the bureaucracy and ag-industry with up-to-date data about Canadian farming – who is farming, where they are, what they’re farming, how much, and all other relevant information.  The Census compiles information and identifies trends on issues, opportunities and challenges affecting the agricultural community. Farmers also provide information about land use, crops, livestock, agricultural labour, machinery and equipment, land management practices and farm finances.

It’s important to note that it’s a confidential process. All information provided to Statistics Canada is protected under the Statistics Act, which ensures that census information is kept confidential. Privacy is a fundamental component of the census.

Census of Agriculture data is the definitive source of community-level data. “By drawing on this data, decision makers will be assured that they are acting in the interest of farmers, farm communities, and agricultural operations” says Greg Peterson, director eneral of Agriculture, Energy, Environment and Transportation Statistics at Statistics Canada.

ag CensusIn layman’s terms, that means what farmers report directly impacts the future of their industry on a national and more community-level.

It’s not just government policymakers that use the information generated through the census either. Organizations representing farmers like Farm & Food Care and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture also rely on the data to shape their programs, build more effective communication strategies, and keep up-to-date with the state of the industry more generally – Farm & Food Care’s The Real Dirt on Farming publication, for example, relies heavily on the data generated by the census.

Farmers themselves can use the data generated to, among other things, analyze market trends and make investment decisions. Agricultural supply companies can better pinpoint where there is a market for products and services, and as Peterson describes, “governments and farm organizations also use census data to evaluate the impact of natural disasters on agriculture, and react quickly.”

Needless to say, the input of every farmer is important.

The 2016 Census of Agriculture will be sent to farmers across the country beginning in May of this year, with the results to be published in May 2017. “The census collects information from every farm operation in Canada,” says Peterson. “The collection, follow-up, quality checks, processing, validation, tabulation and publication of data from such an extensive operation takes one year to complete.”

For the farmers out there, remember to do your part. Complete the census, and help bring perspective to your modern and ever-changing industry.

You can find out more about the Census of Agriculture here: www.census.gc.ca

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