Canadian census information is used in a wide variety of applications: to set policy, for governments to develop farm programs and to get a glimpse into the broad trends in agriculture.
The Census of Agriculture, completed every five years, is due to roll out again in May 2016. Farmers and ranchers are busy any time of the year, but especially in the jam-packed spring planting season. Even so, our Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) President is encouraging all producers to fill out the census questionnaire.
“It’s completely understandable that when farmers and ranchers are asked to complete surveys, that request is not always heartily embraced,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson. “However, the census is an essential tool for Canadian agriculture. It allows policymakers to ensure that the plans they are creating are based on the facts.”
As the President of Alberta’s only general farm organization, Jacobson is familiar with the value of agricultural census information. He attends many meetings – local, national and international – where politicians, farm leaders, agricultural organizations and policymakers constantly refer to the information gathered in the most recent agricultural census. As Jacobson says, quality in means quality out.
“The census covers information from crops and livestock to land management and farm labour,” notes Jacobson. “Some of these areas – like farm labour – are high-profile topics right now. Up-to-date information helps keep agriculture groups better informed on issues that affect everyone’s future.”
Early in May, farmers and ranchers in Alberta can expect a letter in the mail from Statistics Canada that has a secure access code and information about how to complete the questionnaire online. Statistics Canada says that this year’s process is 30% more streamlined than in 2011, with features like auto-totals and the ability to skip information that does not apply to your operation. Respondents are also no longer required to provide detailed farm expenses.
The questionnaire can be completed by anyone who is knowledgeable about the farming operation. Information gathered by Statistics Canada is kept confidential as required by the Statistics Act.
“At the end of the day, I know how hard it is to find the time to provide this information,” Jacobson says. “A lot has changed in agriculture since the last census in 2011, so our organization is encouraging everyone to make the time to complete the questionnaire. Farmers are legally required to participate, but we feel the more important point is that the census captures much-needed information to ensure future planning for the agriculture industry is on target.”
More information on the 2016 Census of Agriculture can be found on the Statistic Canada website: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/ca2016#features.