The USDA has released a preliminary report on the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The full report will reach the public in May.

The preliminary data provides “a snapshot of a strong rural America that has remained stable during difficult economic times,” said Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary. “We have slowed significantly the loss of farmland, which has totaled 72 million acres since 1982. New tools provided in the 2014 farm bill will help to further slow and reverse this trend.”

While the census shows farm income is at a record high, “the prolonged drought and lack of disaster assistance have made it more difficult for livestock producers and mid-sized farms to survive,” continued Vilsack. “The 2014 farm bill guarantees disaster assistance and provides additional stability for farmers and ranchers.”

Shortly after the report’s release, Farm Press spoke with Cynthia Clark, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Administrator.

Why the delay in releasing the full report?

“The sequester did have an impact but it wasn’t just that,” said Clark. “Also, we had to deal with budget uncertainty in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Because of the 2012 budgets, we did buy-outs and were in reorganization. … Then, we continued to have issues with a reduced budget in 2012. In 2013, we didn’t have a budget when we were going into the census. In fact, when we needed to mail out the census we were unsure if we’d get the needed funds.”

NASS ended up delaying the census release, which had an 80 percent response rate. “We are providing a preliminary release now and plan to provide the complete census in May. But the government shutdown in October impacted our schedule of review and because we were understaffed we couldn’t rearrange other responsibilities to get to that staff review until later in the year.

“Right now, we’re releasing national and state estimates for number of farms, land and farms, value of sales, and characteristics of the principal operator.”