I got one of the USDA’s surveys, too, and had an interesting discussion with whoever responded to their “contact us” email address. I noted that my paper form claimed very clearly that response was required by law, but the web site version of the survey said it was voluntary. So I asked which was true, and was told that Public Law 105-113 “authorizes the [USDA] to conduct an agricultural census every five years,” and explained the form was to help them save time in some further census process. The response said nothing about whether my response was required or not, though it did (of course) say the law required all information from respondents to be kept confidential, specifically that it “cannot be used for purposes of taxation, investigation, or regulation.” It ended with a warm fuzzy statement about how important agriculture is to America (for some definition of “agriculture”, I guess).
So I replied, saying they hadn’t answered my question, which I repeated. Their response said, “To try to completely answer your question, the Census of Agriculture, conducted every five years, is a survey that by law requires a response from operators who are involved in agriculture. Though other NASS surveys do not by law require individuals to respond, NASS is required by law to conduct these surveys and publish statistics from the information gathered.”
You’ll note this still doesn’t answer the question, though it does say I need to respond if ever they come knocking with actual census forms. In my emails I also mentioned that the questions ask about “land that is in government programs”, in the description prior to question 1. All other questions depend on this answer to question 1. I own “land with the potential for agricultural production” (kind of vague, don’t you think?) but none of it is part of any agricultural government programs. It’s subject to property tax, emergency services can presumably access it without penalty in time of emergency, and I guess it could be subject to seizure under eminent domain, all of which means it’s probably part of one government program or another. But, I don’t have a government loan on it or equipment I use on it, I don’t get subsidies, so I call it “not a government program”, and put “0 acres”. All my other responses were thereby zero, as they all depend on how much acreage I operate. Regards, – E.K.