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Census of Agriculture

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Mary Ries
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Census of Agriculture

Contents


Introduction

The Census of Agriculture is the leading source of facts and figures about American agriculture, covering farming, ranching, and related activities.  It provides a detailed picture of U.S. agricultural operations and the people involved. The census provides a source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the United States. The data collected by the Census of Agriculture is used to make decisions about many things that directly impact farmers, including:

  • community planning
  • store/company locations
  • availability of operational loans and other funding
  • location and staffing of service centers
  • farm programs and policies

The first agricultural survey of the United States was conducted in 1791and compiled by George Washington in response to a letter from Arthur Young.  The survey covered parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia which at the time was where most of the nation’s population lived.  It was not until 1840 that the Federal Government conducted the first comprehensive agricultural survey as part of the Decennial Census of that year.

Originally conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, since 1997 the Census of Agriculture has been handled by the Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistical Service.  Between 1840 and1920 it was part of the Decennial Census.  From 1925-1974 it was conducted every 5 years and then again in 1978.  Since 1982 it has been conducted every five years in years ending in 2 and 7.   

The Agriculture Census currently has three parts:

  • Volume 1 - The geographic series with separate reports devoted to each state / territory and a summary of national statistics.
  • Volume 2 - The subject series includes the Agricultural Atlas of the United States.
  • Volume 3 - Special reports such as Irrigation and Land Ownership Surveys. 

The base unit of the census is the farm.  Statistical data is available from the National level down to Congressional and Zip code levels.  Limited statistical data is available on the Congressional or Zip Code levels.  Volume one of the Census contains geographic

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Data Availability

Current (2012)

Online USDA

Check OSU Catalog for Web E-Books

Previous (2007)

Online Census of Agriculture - Historical Census Publications (1840-2007)

Online Census of Agriculture - Publications

Print - search catalog under title "Census of Agriculture"

Check OSU Catalog for Web E-Books

Historic (1840-2002)

Online Census of Agriculture Historical Archives (1840-2002)

Online Census of Agriculture - Historical Census Publications (1840-2007)

Online HathiTrust Digital Library

Online Historical Census Browser.  (University of Virginia. University of Virginia Library) Limited searching for the category - Agriculture for 1850-1950. 

Check OSU Catalog for Web E-Books

Print - search catalog under title "Census of Agriculture"

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Other Resources

Agricultural Data. (University of South Dakota) Links to various USDA statistical publications on various topics. 

Census of Horticultural Specialties

Economic Research Service. (USDA) Provides agricultural data with an economic focus.

Irrigation Survey (Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey)

National Agricultural Library Digital Collections. (USDA)

Ohio Agriculture Statistics

On-Farm Energy Production Survey

Organic Production Survey

National Agricultural Statistics Service

Soil Survey. (USDA)

Statistical Abstract of the United States (Select Agriculture)  [Post 2012]   [1879-2012]  [Note:  The U.S. Census Bureau terminated the collection of data for the Statistical Compendia program effective October 1, 2011,which includes the Statistical Abstract of the United States.  ProQuest took over publication with the 2013 edition]

Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL)

United States Agricultural Data, 1840-2010 … (Institute for Social Research. The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research - ICPSR)  Provides data about the number, types, output, and prices of various agricultural products, as well as information on the amount, expenses, sales, values, and production of machinery. Most of the basic crop output data apply to the previous harvest year. Data collected also included the population and value of livestock, the number of animals slaughtered, and the size, type, and value of farms.  Includes county-level data from the United States Censuses of Agriculture for the years 1840 to 2010.

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Further Reading

Historical Statistics of the Uniter States. (FRASER)

Industry Research Using the Economic Census:  How to Find It, How to Use It.  Chapter 7:  Agriculture. Jennifer C. Boettcher and Leonard M. Gaines.  Westport, Connecticut:  Greenwood Press, 2004.

Letters on Agriculture From His Excellency George Washington President of the United States to Arthur Young, Esq. F.R.S. and Sir John Sinclair, Bart., M.P. with Statistical Tables and Remarks, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Peters, and Other Gentleman, on the Economy and Management of Farms in the United States.  p. 34-59.  Franklin Knight, Editor.  Washington, D.C.:  Franklin Knight; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:  William S. Martien; and New York, New York:  Baker & Scrirner, and William S. Martien, 1847.

U.S. Census of Agriculture:  Home. (Princeton University. Princeton University Library)

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