WHAT TO BUY FOR DINNER? WHAT TO PLANT
IN THE SPRING? IS THIS GOOD
NATIONAL POLICY? WILL THIS LOCAL
PLAN BE EFFECTIVE? WHAT PROFITS ARE POSSIBLE? WHAT DO ALL THESE
QUESTIONS HAVE IN COMMON? THE ANSWERS TO ALL OF THEM
DEPEND ON STATISTICS – NUMBERS, MEASUREMENTS,
SURVEY RESPONSES, ALL GATHERED BY, THE
NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS SERVICE, or NASS. NASS, AN AGENCY OF THE
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, HAS
CONSTANTLY EVOLVED TO BETTER SERVE AND
MEET THE NEEDS OF OUR NATION’S LARGEST INDUSTRY. TODAY, AS IN THE PAST,
AMERICA DEPENDS ON NASS TO BE THE FACT FINDERS FOR
AMERICAN AGRICULTURE. AMERICA’S FOOD AND FIBER
SYSTEM IS WORLD FAMOUS FOR PRODUCTIVITY
AND EFFICIENCY – DELIVERING AN
ABUNDANCE OF SAFE AND AFFORDABLE FOOD
HERE AND ABROAD. BUT THAT WOULD NOT BE
POSSIBLE WITHOUT TIMELY, RELIABLE, CONFIDENTIAL
STATISTICS GATHERED AT EVERY STEP OF THE PROCESS. ON FARMS AND RANCHES, ON
FOOT OR ON THE PHONE, THE NASS FACT FINDERS HELP
ENSURE AN ACCURATE PICTURE OF THE PROGRESS OF EACH
CROP, WITH REGULAR SURVEYS THAT ALLOW FOR PRECISE
ANALYSIS, WHILE PROTECTING THE ABSOLUTE PRIVACY OF
PARTICIPATING PRODUCERS. UNDER WORLD-CLASS
SECURITY, THE NASS FACT FINDERS RELEASE MORE THAN
400 STATISTICAL REPORTS FROM HEADQUARTERS
EACH YEAR…. THESE LEAD TO THOUSANDS
OF ADDITIONAL REPORTS FROM STATE
STATISTICAL OFFICES. EVERY FIVE YEARS, NASS CONDUCTS
THE CENSUS OF AGRICULTURE, WHICH PROVIDES A
WEALTH OF INFORMATION: HOW MUCH DOES IT COSTS
TO PRODUCE CROPS; WHAT PRICES DO
COMMODITIES BRING; HOW MUCH LABOR IS INVOLVED; THE DEMOGRAPHOIC
PROFILE OF FARMS; AND MUCH MORE. THIS
INFORMATION HELPS OFFICIALS AND INDUSTRY EXPERTS MONITOR THE
CONSTANTLY CHANGING FARM SECTOR. IT IS CRUCIAL FOR CARRYING
OUT EFFECTIVE FARM POLICY. OFF THE FARM,
THESE STATISTICS HELP COMMUNITY PLANNERS,
AGRI-BUSINESS SUPPLIERS, INTERNATIONAL
TRADERS, AND MANY OTHERS. THE VALUE OF SUCH A
SYSTEM WAS RECOGNIZED EARLY IN AMERICAN HISTORY. In 1791, GEORGE
WASHINGTON MAY HAVE CONDUCTED THE FIRST EVER FARM
SURVEY FROM MOUNT VERNON, WHEN HE ASKED FELLOW FARMERS
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT CROPS, YIELDS, PRICES AND TAXES. IN 1840, THE FIRST
OFFICIAL AGRICULTURAL CENSUS PROVIDED A NATIONWIDE
INVENTORY OF PRODUCTION TO A MAINLY
AGRARIAN SOCIETY. DURING THE CIVIL WAR,
INFORMATION ABOUT CROP PRODUCTION AND
LIVESTOCK INVENTORIES WAS VITAL
TO MILITARY STRATEGY. IN 1862, PRESIDENT ABRAHAM
LINCOLN ESTABLISHED THE U.S. DEPARTMENT
OF AGRICULTURE. THE FOLLOWING YEAR,
THE USDA DIVISION OF STATISTICS WAS BORN, AND THE ROOTS
OF NASS WERE FIRMLY PLANTED. BUT ONE OF THE KEY
EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF NASS HAPPENED IN 1905. IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT AN
EMPLOYEE TOOK PART IN AN INSIDE-TRADING
SCHEME BY LEAKING THE COTTON
FORECAST PREMATURELY. IN RESPONSE TO THE
SCANDAL, THE AGENCY CREATED THE CROP REPORTING
BOARD, NOW CALLED THE AGRICULTURAL
STATISTICS BOARD, TO GREATLY EXPAND BOTH
SECURITY AND EXPERTISE. SOON AFTER, AT THE REQUEST
OF PRESIDENT TEDDY ROOSEVELT AND THE
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, LAWS WERE PASSED MAKING
PREMATURE DISCLOSURE OF STATISTICAL
REPORTS A CRIME. ANCHORED WITH THIS
IMPORTANT PROTECTION, THE PROCESS OF
GATHERING AND REPORTING AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS
CONTINUED TO EVOLVE, THROUGH THE GREAT
DEPRESSION AND THE DUSTBOWL, THOUGH TIMES OF CONFLICT, AND PEACE, POST-WAR AMERICA
SAW THE DEVELOPMENT OF WEEKLY REPORTS
ON CROPS AND LIVESTOCK, AND IMPROVEMENTS
IN OBJECTIVE YIELD SURVEYS
OF MAJOR CROPS. METICULOUS MEASUREMENTS
FROM SAMPLE PLOTS AT KEY CROP STAGES BECAME AN
ESSENTIAL TRADITION. AS AGRICULTURAL
PRODUCTION HAS GROWN MORE COMPLEX AND
COMPUTERIZED, NASS HAS ADAPTED WITH STATE OF THE ART
TECHNOLOGY AT EVERY TURN. TODAY THE AGRICULTURAL
STATISTICS BOARD SAFEGUARDS THE INTEGRITY
OF NASS ESTIMATES, ENSURING
THAT NO ONE GAINS PREMATURE ACCESS
TO THE INFORMATION. IN AN EXACTING TRADITION
THAT BEGAN IN 1905, NASS EMPLOYEES
PREPARE OFFICIAL ESTIMATES IN ROOMS THAT
ARE LOCKED AND GUARDED. THOSE PREPARING THE REPORT
MAY NOT LEAVE OR CONTACT ANYONE OUTSIDE UNTIL THE
REPORT HAS BEEN RELEASED. THE LOCKUP IS MONITORED FOR
ELECTRONIC SURVEILLANCE. PHONES ARE TURNED OFF. COMPUTER SYSTEMS ARE
SECURED AGAINST TAMPERING. NASS DATA NETWORKS ARE
CAREFULLY CONTROLLED, AND REVIEWED
ON A REGULAR BASIS, TO MAINTAIN THE
HIGHEST LEVEL OF SECURITY. NO UNAUTHORIZED PERSON
HAS ACCESS TO THE DATA OR ANALYSIS OF A REPORT
BEFORE IT IS ISSUED. AND NASS EMPLOYEES ARE HELD TO THE NATION’S
HIGHEST STANDARDS AND STRICTEST LAWS
REGARDING CONFIDENTIALITY. THE CONFIDENTIALITY PLEDGE
THAT ALL NASS EMPLOYEES TAKE IS THE FOUNDATION
FOR FACT FINDING. SURVEY PARTICIPANTS TRUST
THAT THE INFORMATION THEY PROVIDE WILL BE
USEFUL AND SECURE. BUT NASS CAN’T
DO IT ALONE. THE MANY NASS SURVEYS
ARE DONE WITH THE SUPPORT OF STATE DEPARTMENTS
OF AGRICULTURE; LAND-GRANT COLLEGES
AND UNIVERSITIES; AND OTHER PARTNERS IN THE INDUSTRY. THESE COOPERATIVE PROGRAMS
IMPROVE AGRICULTURAL ESTIMATES AND PREVENT
DUPLICATION OF EFFORTS IN GETTING FACTS FROM
FARMERS AND RANCHERS. THE PARTNERSHIPS
SAVE TIME AND MONEY, AND HELP MAINTAIN
CONSISTENCY OF CROP REPORTING. THROUGH IT ALL, THE
PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY OF EACH PRODUCER IS
THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. AGRICULTURAL
PRODUCERS ARE CRITICAL TO OUR NATIONAL ECONOMY –
AND TO INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIES. MOST AMERICANS TAKE FOR
GRANTED THE ORDERLY FLOW OF GOODS, THE
SEAMLESS DELIVERY OF FEDERAL AND STATE PROGRAMS, AND THE COUNTLESS CONTRIBUTIONS OF AN EFFICIENT
AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM. BUT IT ALL
BEGINS WITH NASS. NASS WAS CREATED
TO PROVIDE GENERAL STATISTICAL
INFORMATION TO FARMERS THROUGH OCCASSIONAL REPORTS. TODAY NASS HAS
EVOLVED TO PROVIDE A CONSTANT STREAM OF
TIMELY, CRITICAL INFORMATION TO SERVE THE ENTIRE
AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY. WITH THE CREATION OF THE
AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS BOARD A CENTURY AGO,
NASS HAS CONTINUALLY SAFEGUARDED AMERICA’S
AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS. CONTINUING A TRADITION
OF ACCURACY, RELIABILITY, CONFIDENTIALITY, AND
SECURE PROCEDURES, THE NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL
STATISTICS SERVICE EMPLOYEES WILL MAINTAIN
THE TRUST THEY HAVE EARNED IN THEIR DATA AND
PROCEDURES FROM AMERICA’S FARMERS AND RANCHERS,
THEIR DATA USERS, THE AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY,
AND STATISTICAL ORGANIZATIONS AND GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE
WORLD, FOR CENTURIES TO COME.