From FCC Express, by Richard Kamchen
Another Census of Agriculture is on the horizon, and while farmers are legally required to participate, they should also be aware that their answers will end up benefiting them.
The questions the government will pose to farm operators in May 2016 were published in the Canada Gazette on June 20. They’re also available on the Statistics Canada website.
“People will be able to see what questions we’re asking and get an idea of the data that will be available when we publish in May 2017,” says Erik Dorff of Statistics Canada’s agriculture division.
Agriculture Canada and the provincial ag departments are among the biggest users of the data for formulating programs and policy decisions in general, he notes.
Survey programs also use the information as a benchmark in order to afford smaller samples, allowing the surveys to be turned around faster and at a lower cost.
Farm groups are also heavy users of the census, using its detailed information in formulating policy requests, as well as producing communications and outreach work, and market development, Dorff says.
Local governments and rural municipalities make use of the census as well in local planning efforts.
In the fall preceding the Census of Agriculture, Statistics Canada begins its outreach work to the farm community, including going out to farm shows and working with the farm media to share what’s different about the upcoming census and explaining its utility.
Farmers will receive an invitation letter at the beginning of May 2016 that will include information on how to fill out the questionnaire online or how to request a paper version instead.
The online form is the biggest way to ease the response burden, Dorff notes. Filling in the questionnaire online will make it easier for respondents to verify or correct information if there’s any need to clarify, whereas with paper, there’d have to be a follow up call.
The electronic form is smart phone and tablet compliant. A secure access code is provided in the letter.
The questionnaire for the upcoming census has been trimmed down, Dorff says. StatsCan went through the content and determined where there were opportunities to use administrative or referential data to replace respondents’ supplied data. That in turn reduces the amount of questions farmers are required to answer, Dorff says.
During each census cycle, StatsCan sits down with data users and listens to wish lists of what they want in order to address issues that could potentially arise between the upcoming census and the next one. Mock questions are then tested with individual farmers and focus groups in order to determine their efficacy.
“The census is a seven year cycle roughly, but content consultations happen just after we release the material from the preceding census,” Dorff says.