January Marks VA's First Agriculture Census Since 2007 - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

January Marks VA's First Agriculture Census Since 2007

Posted: Updated: Dec 28, 2012 04:33 PM EST

January will mark the start of a month-long research effort by the Department of Agriculture. It's Virginia's first Census of Agriculture since 2007.   

Farmers around the commonwealth will be receiving surveys in the mail. Once the surveys are completed, the department will have a complete count of all U.S. farms, and how they have changed since the last census five years ago. 

Governor Bob McDonnell declared January as Virginia Agriculture Census Month. Officials from the Virginia Department of Agriculture say legislators use the surveys when making policy decisions affecting the future of agriculture.

"It's pretty detailed. It's a lot of information about practices and crops and production, but the information is very valuable," said Matt Lohr, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture.

Farmers have been required to fill out the census every five years since 1840. The information helps track trends in the industry.

"This type of data will be used to help our politicians, to help legislators kind of guide the industry, and plus even with us in the Department of AG [agriculture] we can see what are the needs of our farmers," said Lohr.

Ian Heatwole owns a dairy and poultry farm in Augusta County. He says he has noticed agricultural trend changes since the 2007 census.

"Agriculture is always, is a fluid thing, is always changing, so I think it's important for them to keep a handle on just how it is changing and to remain relevant," said Heatwole. He says he is noticing as years go on there are fewer large farms and a greater amount of small farms.  

The census will be based on the 2012 production year. The agricultural census will be taking place in every county in the nation.

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