By now, most livestock and poultry producers should know to be suspicious of anyone they do not know who comes onto their property.

People aren’t always who they say they are.

For instance, just this spring I learned of one new disturbing trend: animal rights activists posing as feed salesmen. As Jim Rovers, senior vice president of AFIMAC Global, told attendees at the 2019 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit that they assume the false identity to become familiar with the property so they can shoot video footage that with the intent of painting the farm in an unfavorable light.

Now with the turning of the decade upon us, animal rights activists have apparently found another opportunity: Posing as Census employees.

According to a report from Southeast Ag Net, poultry producers in Oklahoma, Indiana and now Georgia have had people posing as Census workers show up at their operations with, presumably the same intention as those who posed as feed salesmen. Fortunately, at least the Georgia producer denied access to those people.

What to look for

This idea of fake Census enumerators really intrigued me, especially since in 2010, I worked for the U.S. Census Bureau on a part-time basis for a few months. A friend of mine was a recruiter for the Census, and he told me it was a good way to earn a little extra cash with flexible hours that I could work around my regular job.

Easy money? A chance to get ahead on expenses and stop throwing away money on interest? I’d do this for only a couple of months? Why not?

I applied and took a job as an enumerator who visited residences where the occupants didn’t fill out the forms that were mailed to them. Part of the training was to identify ourselves and show our badges. I visited dozens of properties – both urban and rural -- over that brief period, but only one person (who presumably had someone living there that might have been in trouble with the law) questioned if I was really representing the U.S. Census Bureau.

But knowing there could be impostors out there, I’d urge anyone that has people show up who are claiming to be with the Census Bureau to politely question those people.

Some might wonder when to expect an actual Census worker to show up. According to the U.S. Census website, in-field address canvassing began on August 19 and ended on October 11. Hiring of enumerators has begun, but those people will not actually be in the field until January, but that is only in remote Alaskan communities.  Census mailings won’t begin until March.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance shared with Southeast Ag Net some tips on how to verify if a person really is with the Census that I am passing along.

The field representative will present an ID badge that includes:

  • Their name
  • Their photograph
  • A Department of Commerce watermark
  • An expiration date

Additionally, the Alliance advises:

  • A field representative will be carrying an official bag with the Census Bureau logo or a laptop for conducting the survey.
  • The field representative will provide you with a letter from the Census Bureau on official letterhead stating why they are visiting your residence.
  • Field representatives conduct their work between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., local time.
  • Upon request, the field representative will provide you with their supervisor’s contact information and/or the phone number for your Census Bureau Regional Office. The Regional Office supervises the activities of all field representatives in your area.
  • If you wish to independently confirm that the person at your door is a Census Bureau employee, you can enter their name in the Census Bureau’s staff search website, or contact the Regional Office for your state.

It is important to participate in the Census, but we must be sure that the people we interact with while participating are in fact who they say they are.