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Farming and ranching census deadline approaches

Greta Mart
Farmland in the Edna Valley

Central Coast farmers and ranchers have just a few days left to be counted by the USDA Census of Agriculture. The data could impact funding for agricultural research and nutrition programs.

The USDA Census of Agriculture gathers data once every five years, and farmers and ranchers can submit the questionnaire by mail or online. The effort collects a wide range of data about who's growing what, how much and where. The census tracks the age and gender of farmers and whether they are veterans.

Michael Dimock is president of Roots of Change, a group that's backed efforts to boost access to local produce for low-income Californians. He says it's critical for smaller farmers - like those who sell at farmers markets - to be counted by the census because there's a ripple effect with federal funding.

"And if certain sectors of the farm community - the ranchers, peri-urban, smaller farmers, farmers that sell to consumers thru farmers markets - if they don't show up on the census, the programs that support those farmers are not going to get funded or they're going to get reduced funding," Dimock said. 

Programs like 'Market Match,' which allow low-income shoppers to double their money when they buy produce at farmers markets.

The census survey is due by Monday, February 5.