Filling out the Census of Agriculture

I suppose it’s only fair that as an old retired guy I fill out the Census of Agriculture.  For at least 25 years I’ve had times when I was paid to get information out of the Ag Census – so a little bit of payback seems just. 

The first time I got the message “Everyone who receives a census is required by law to respond” it was due to fouled up records and poor penmanship – when I moved back to Montana from Colorado, one of the requirements of crossing state lines with cats was a vet certificate of health.  Transferring data back then kind of counted on data entry perfection – my two cats were entered into the early computer as two calves, and my invitation to the Census of Agriculture was set in motion.  Then it was all pen and paper entries, and it wasn’t easy to figure out why I had the invitation where my response was required by law.

This time it was easier – go to the USDA website and see what they had on me.  It still had the South Dakota phone number – and that reminded me that with 3 acres there, I had been listed as a livestock producer when I purchased 200 perch for the pond.  I think I had to respond once for the cats in the eighties, and another time this century for fish.  This time it was real – I filled out entries confirming that I had raised and sold a crop of hay, and as I continued through the form, I reported the firewood sales too.  The only disheartening thing was finding out that the Census of Agriculture includes property taxes as an expense . . . and when that happens, I’m not reporting a profitable operation.  Well, I’ve never been much of a businessman, and I do understand that when you live in a county that the Economic Research Service classifies as Recreation Dependent and Retirement Destination, you’re probably assessed differently than in a county where you’re Agriculture Dependent.  This year I guess I’m a hobby farmer.

I don’t use the Census of Agriculture so much, now that I actually meet the definition of having a farm – but it’s online at  

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