2002 Census of Agriculture response rates are lagging, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. But NASS officials say farmers still have time to reverse that trend.

“We urge everyone who hasn't yet completed and returned their 2002 Census of Agriculture report forms to do so today,” said NASS Administrator Ron Bosecker. “Every response counts to produce quality data.

“We are now starting to intensify our data collection efforts, which require more expensive methods such as telephone calls and personal visits,” said Bosecker. “Producers can help keep down the cost of the census by returning their forms by mail.”

He said the NASS wants farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists from every sector of the industry to know how crucial it is that they complete and return their census forms.

“Not only do data gathered from the census provide information for local and state agricultural investment decisions, they help local, state and national representatives and agencies make informed agricultural policy decisions and help the U.S. compete for its share of the global agriculture market.

Information gathered also ensures quick access to vital local statistics in the event of a natural disaster or possible homeland security threat.”

The census of agriculture is the sole source of comprehensive, detailed agricultural facts for every county in the United States. It is only conducted every five years. For more information, or for assistance in completing your census form, visit Web site www.nass.usda.gov/census/ or call 1-888-4AG STAT.