Texas AgriLife Extension Service officials are encouraging the state's agricultural producers to participate in the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

"The agricultural census provides very important data that helps tell the agriculture story in Texas and the nation," said Dr. Roland Smith, associate director. "We strongly encourage producers in every county across Texas to complete their forms by the Feb. 4 deadline in order to have a voice relative to future industry decisions that often are based off the census numbers, such as farm policy, program funding, and other key issues."

Census data is collected every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service. The census provides detailed data covering nearly every facet of U.S. agriculture and is the only source of uniform and comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation.

Government organizations, lawmakers, city planners and individual farm operations use the information in a variety of ways from farm bill impacts to community development, according to Smith.

Dr. Mark Waller, AgriLife Extension program leader for agricultural economics, said census data serves as a vital decision aid in making many on-farm management decisions each year.

"Farmers and ranchers can use this data to see how their costs and returns compare to those of producers in other parts of the country," he said. "When taking into consideration the high production costs many producers are facing today, having detailed information certainly helps plan against risk and make one more profitable."

"The importance of an inclusive and accurate census of U.S. agriculture has never been greater," said Dr. Mark Welch, AgriLife Extension grain marketing economist.

Welch said producers are responding to shifting demand patterns for food, feed, fuel and fiber "and must cope with ever increasing input costs.

"It's important to monitor the changing face of American agriculture in order to stay current with what farming and ranching today looks like, to appreciate the productivity and role this industry plays in our economy, and to respond to its needs," he said.

Producers can return their forms by mail or, for the first time, fill out the census online. For more information about the 2007 Census, visit http://www.agcensus.usda.gov.