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USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Census

February 4, 2008 
 
Many people have inquired of the Legal Defense Fund whether they need to submit a response to the Census recently issued by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. The short answer is you are legally required to submit a response to the questionnaire if one was sent to you. The law states that the Administrator of USDA has the authority to send out a Census every five years and that failure to respond subjects the violator to a618

$100 penalty, and providing of false information subjects the violator to a $500 penalty. You do not need to furnish your social security number nor answer questions that deal with your religious beliefs or affiliations. 
 
Please take note that the USDA has defined a farm as a "any place that produced and sold, or normally would produce and sell, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the census year." Several farmers in the past have submitted "N/A" to all of their answers. Others have "returned" their questionnaires with a cover letter and have argued that this constitutes "a response." The Fund has inquired several of the USDA employees and has received conflicting answers to our questions. For example, the USDA may not be taking enforcement action against farmers who simply answer "N/A" or who simply return their questionnaires with a cover letter indicating this constitutes their response. Submitting a response does not necessarily mean answering each question, that decision is up to you.