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