The government is currently collecting important data that helps industry members and federal agencies plan for the future — and growers need to respond soon. Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) mailed survey codes to more than 40,000 horticulture producers for its 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties.
Collected just once every five years, the Census of Horticultural Specialties is the only source of detailed production and sales data for U.S. floriculture, nursery, and specialty crop industries, including greenhouse food crops. Federal law requires producers who receive the Census to respond. The same federal law requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.
The Census is “something everyone in the industry should embrace, for it is from this survey that every agency from the USDA to state departments of agriculture to university administrators (think: teaching programs, research appropriations and Extension funding) can compare horticulture’s contributions to the economy and how those compare with other segments of agriculture,” said Dr. Marvin Miller, AAF, market research manager at Ball Horticultural Company in West Chicago, Illinois, a longtime volunteer member of the Society of American Florists and a member of the NASS advisory committee.
SAF uses the data from the Census to advocate on on Capitol Hill, Miller added. In addition, many industry firms use the information “to plan, to forecast trends, to determine sales coverages and to gauge inventories,” he explained.
The Census collects data on production and sales for myriad product categories, including cut flowers, cut greens, potted flowering plants, foliage plants, bedding/garden plants, nursery crops, propagative materials, flower seeds, dried bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers, and more. The survey collects both units and dollars for what is produced and sold, which allows NASS to provide totals by state for each crop.
“While those responding to this once-every-five-year survey might be surprised at the level of detail being solicited, the resulting data will provide major opportunities for firms to benchmark their business models against others throughout their states and the nation,” Miller said.
Growers are asked to use their unique survey code to complete the horticulture census online via NASS’ secure website. The online questionnaire is user friendly, accessible on most electronic devices, and saves producers time by calculating totals and automatically skipping questions that don’t apply to their operations.
The deadline to respond is Wednesday, Feb. 5. Results will be available next December. For more information, see nass.usda.gov/go/hort.
Katie Hendrick Vincent is the senior contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.