THE Best Agricultural Data for Environmental Impact Statements

Agricultural data for Equus Beds Aquifer EIS

Agricultural data for Equus Beds Aquifer EIS

Recently, I’ve noticed a number of environmental impact statements (EIS) with detailed agricultural data.

I’d expect agricultural statistics to be in the Equus Beds Aquifer Storage Project. The purpose of this project  is to recharge an aquifer.  The water table has dropped up as much as 50 feet due in part to an increased agricultural demand for water.

However, projects such as the Bering Sea Chinook Salmon Bycatch EIS and the I-65 to US 31W Access Improvement EIS also have detailed agricultural data.  The first EIS examines alternatives to minimize Chinook salmon bycatch.  Agricultural data is used to demonstrate a trend of increased levels of economic activity in Alaska’s waters, including  increased US export of agricultural products to China.  Conversely, the purpose of the second EIS is to improve access, capacity and safety of a roadway.  Agricultural data is scattered throughout the document in such sections as Land Use, Zoning, Regional and Community Plan, Agriculture Setting, Community Cohesion and more.

Agricultural data from the I-65 to US 31W EIS

Agricultural data from the I-65 to US 31W EIS

I think these 3 very different EISs illustrate that there are a wide variety of projects that must examine agricultural impacts above and beyond the typical Prime and Unique Farmlands impacts.  And I hope that these 3 documents are proof enough that it’s likely that you’re going to need to pull agricultural data in the near future.

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So you’ve got a project, and you need to pull agricultural data.  What should you do?

There are many sources of agricultural data like the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, FAOSTAT, and local data like land use data and real estate appraisal data.  That said, I’ve noticed that recent EISs most often include data from the USDA’s Census of Agriculture.  The most current Census of Agriculture is from 2007.  The data is descriptive, easy to understand and accessible.  And it’s available at the state and county level.

How to get 2007 Census of Agriculture data for your projects?

Navel Oranges

Navel Oranges

Let’s say that you want to pull agricultural data for Hidalgo County, Texas.  Hidalgo County is well known for it’s sweet smelling orange groves that line the roadways.  So here are the steps to follow to quickly get agricultural data for Hidalgo County.

1. Go to the USDA’s Census of Agriculture website here: http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/

2. Click on the 2007 Census of Agriculture Report link to go to the 2007 Census Publications page.

3. Scroll down to the section on State and County Reports. Click on All Counties by State by Table.

4. From there, select Texas.

5. This page provides a list of detailed tables that you can use. For now, let’s grab some overview data.  So click on  the PDF link next to Table 1. County Summary Highlights: 2007.

6. In the PDF, run a find for “Hidalgo.” [To run a find, hold down the Control Key and the F button on your keyboard at the same time]

7. And now, you’ve got overview data describing the agricultural industry in Hidalgo County–data such as number of farms, acres of land in farms, estimated market value per acre, number of cattle and acres of grain.

2007 Census of Agriculture data

2007 Census of Agriculture data

For more detailed agricultural information, Return to the Volume 1, Chapter 2: County Level Data page.  There are 56 tables with additional agricultural data that might be relevant for your project.

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What other agricultural data do you need?  Do you have any other favorite sources to share?  Let me know in the comments!

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2 Responses to THE Best Agricultural Data for Environmental Impact Statements

  1. Ben Goldsworthy January 20, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Agree that the Census of Agriculture is a great resource for obtaining ag related statistics. We completed an EIS in ‘o8 for an interstate project that went through three counties. Initially we tried to rely on local county data, but we found that the counties wee not measuring farmland the same way. Using the Ag Census was helpful in knowing we had consistently measured data across the counties. One bit of info that we needed that we didn’t find in teh Ag Census was the number of farms and acres sold in a given year. For that we had to go to the USDA National Agriculture Statistical Service’s (same group that provides the Ag Census) County Level Data Quick Stats.

    Thanks for the newsletter and blog. I find them helpful in informing me about new locations to obtain data. I also like the fact you guys are putting together a NEPA library. A couple of studies I have worked on are on there. The study i referenced above is the I-94 North-South Corridor Study in southeastern Wisconsin. If you would like to add that FEIS to your library, the study can be downloaded at: http://www.plan94.org/project-history.jsp#feis

    Thanks,

    Ben

  2. kcarney January 20, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    Ben,
    Thanks for your insight into using Census of Agriculture data for EISs. THe USDA’s National Agriculture Statistical Service’s County Level Data Quick Stats is another great resource for planners who need to pull agricultural data. Here’s a link to it (note: scroll down): http://www.nass.usda.gov/

    The I-94 FEIS is a great example document for the NEPA Library. I’ve add this FEIS to the NEPA Library here: http://www.cubitplanning.com/document/Interstate+I-94%252C+I-894%252C+AND+STH119+%2528Airport+Spur%2529+I-94%252FUSH+41+Interchange+to+Howard+Avenue+FEIS

    Cheers!

    Kristen

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