Topics Topics

Documentation

Documentation for the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) below consists of:

General Documentation

Sponsored jointly by ERS and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), ARMS began in 1996 as a synthesis of the former USDA cropping practice, chemical use, and farm costs and returns surveys, which dated back to 1975.

ARMS is a series of interviews with farm operators about their farm business and household. It is conducted annually in three phases over the course of the survey year, which runs from June through April. The ARMS data collection starts during the fall when production practice and cost data are collected, and finishes in the spring when a follow-on interview collects data about whole-farm costs like overhead, interest, and taxes.

Phase I, conducted during the summer of the reference year:
Farmers selected for inclusion in the survey sample are screened to verify their operating status and to determine whether they are producing commodities targeted for data collection. This first phase is merely a screening questionnaire used to improve survey efficiency; it does not contribute to the user data files.

Phase II, conducted in the fall and winter of the reference year:
Randomly selected operating farms from Phase I are interviewed to collect information on their production practices and chemical use. Phase II mirrors the former Cropping Practices Survey. Phase II data are collected at the individual field or production unit level. Phase II is a series of commodity surveys conducted to obtain physical and economic data on production inputs, management practices, and commodity cost of production.

Phase III, conducted in the spring of the year following the reference year:
A nationally representative sample of farmers is interviewed to obtain information on their costs and returns during the reference year. Farmers that reported production practices for specific commodities in Phase II are also contacted to obtain information on their costs and returns, including data needed to estimate the costs of production associated with their production practices. Phase III data are collected at the whole farm level. Phase III is designed to represent all U.S. farms and focuses on farm income and expenditures, farm financial arrangements, and other characteristics of the farm business and farm household.

The phase II and III components are related, in that the operators are asked to complete both interviews--but only when designed to prepare a crop cost of production estimate. The cost of production estimates include the enterprise share of farm business expense items such as land taxes, insurance, fuel expenses, etc. that are collected in the phase III interviews.

armsphases

Sample Design

The ARMS survey is technically described as a multi-phase, multi-frame, stratified, probability-weighted sampling design. What do these three characteristics of the sample design mean?

Multiframe

NASS uses two sampling frames to select farms for the survey:

  • The primary sample is derived from the NASS List Frame. NASS maintains a list of farm operations that exhibit certain characteristics. The lists are constructed and maintained from many different sources, including the Census of Agriculture and other NASS surveys. Because some information is already known about these farms, the list can be sorted according to farm types and size classes.
  • The second sampling frame for ARMS is the NASS Area Frame. This is used only to capture farms not on the List Frame, and consists of randomly selected agricultural land segments that represent all land in farms. Each year, NASS conducts a spring survey selected from the Area Frame to estimate crop acreage and land use. This survey identifies all land uses within the segment, and it can be used to stratify target crops for follow-on surveys. A sample for ARMS is then selected from the spring survey results. Only those farms not on the List Frame (nonoverlap) are retained for sampling.

Stratified

Strata are divisions within the sample frames that have particular characteristics. Farms in different strata are sampled with a different probability of selection. Within a stratum, the weight (expansion factor) is based on the probability of its selection. In the Area Frame, land use or crop type can be used to stratify target crops for follow-up surveys.

Probability-weighted

Because of the complexity of the sample design, each observation has a different weight, or expansion factor, to reflect its probability of selection and, therefore, what part of the sampled universe it should represent. Appropriate sample weights (expansion factors) are provided to prepare population estimates from the survey results. Population estimates are constructed by weighting each sample with the appropriate expansion factor. A jackknife re-sampling process was used with 15 additional weights from NASS for each sample to estimate the Relative Standard Error (RSE) for each data item.

Furthermore, data from the Phase II of ARMS is divided into three data files: 1) fertilizers, 2) pesticides, and 3) all other data designated as the main file (e.g., field characteristics, management practices, and production input data other than fertilizers and pesticides). Sample weights associated with each of the three data files depends on the number of usable responses for the respective parts of the Phase II questionnaire. The usability of these tables for the construction of chemical or fertilizer use estimates was determined independently from the completion of the remainder of the questionnaire. Typically, there are slightly different response rates for these three parts of the questionnaire, and hence, weights differ between the main file and the two sub-files (pesticide and fertilizer). Cross-tabbing of variables across the three data files can result in different population estimates for the same variable. In general, such population estimate differences across tables are minimal.

Data Collection
Trained enumerators conduct personal interviews, using questionnaires developed by NASS and ERS, with farm operators to collect data about their farm operations for the ARMS survey. An interviewer's manual outlines detailed enumeration procedures for each phase of the survey. These documents provide specific directions on how the interview is to be conducted and insight into how to interpret each question.

Quality Control
NASS provides enumerator training prior to the survey through a series of enumerator workshops. NASS Headquarters and ERS provide training materials to the State survey statisticians who conduct the training.

After questionnaires are completed by the enumerators, each questionnaire is reviewed by supervisory enumerators for completeness, inconsistent responses, or errors, and then transferred to a NASS State office. Supervisory statisticians also review each questionnaire before it is keyed into an electronic format. A computerized edit routine is then used to identify other potential errors or inconsistencies, checking that responses fall within expected ranges and that answers are consistent. When responses are anomalous, State survey statisticians investigate and either correct or verify the responses. A survey administration manual provides specific details about survey administration and data processing procedures.

Source, Content, and Coverage
ARMS is an ongoing program surveying U.S. farms in the 48 contiguous States and covering specific commodities on a rotating basis.

Farms
ARMS data are collected at both the individual field or production unit level (Phase II), and for the whole farm (Phase III). The exact questions asked vary with the type of crop or livestock enterprise being sampled. Download the Survey to see the questions asked for Phases II and III for specific crops and livestock in specific years.

The target population for ARMS is the official USDA farm population in the 48 contiguous States, which is defined as all establishments, except institutional farms, that sold or would normally have sold at least $1,000 of agricultural products during the year.

Commodities
Commodity-specific information is collected on a rotating basis in both the field-level (Phase II) and whole-farm (Phase III) portions of the ARMS. Production practice data for major crop and livestock activities (corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs) are gathered more often than that for other commodities (other feed grains, other small grains, sugarbeets, rice, peanuts, tobacco, and poultry). Livestock data (cow-calf, hogs, and dairy) have been collected approximately every 5 years, on a staggered rotation.

ARMS coverage by commodity and year

Commodity 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2009 2010
Apples                       checkmark_green.gif    
Corn checkmark_green.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_green.gif       checkmark_green.gif       checkmark_green.gif
Soybeans checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_green.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif   checkmark_green.gif       checkmark_green.gif      
Cotton checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_green.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif     checkmark_green.gif         checkmark_green.gif    
Winter Wheat checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_green.gif   checkmark_yellow.gif       checkmark_green.gif       checkmark_green.gif  
Spring Wheat checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_green.gif   checkmark_yellow.gif       checkmark_green.gif       checkmark_green.gif  
Durum Wheat checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_green.gif   checkmark_yellow.gif       checkmark_green.gif       checkmark_green.gif  
Fall Potatoes checkmark_yellow.gif checkmark_yellow.gif   checkmark_yellow.gif                    
Rice          checkmark_green.gif             checkmark_green.gif    
Sorghum (milo)                 checkmark_green.gif            
Flue-cured Tobacco checkmark_green.gif                           
Sugarbeets          checkmark_green.gif                  
Peanuts        checkmark_yellow.gif         checkmark_green.gif          
Sunflowers        checkmark_yellow.gif                    
Oats                   checkmark_green.gif        
Barley               checkmark_green.gif              
Cow-calf checkmark_red.gif                          
Hogs     checkmark_red.gif           checkmark_red.gif            
Dairy           checkmark_red.gif         checkmark_red.gif           checkmark_red.gif
Broilers                     checkmark_red.gif      

= Phase II field-level Production Practices Report only.
checkmark_green.gif   = Both Phase II field-level Production Practices Report and Phase III whole-farm Cost of Production survey.
checkmark_red.gif   = Phase III whole-farm Cost of Production survey only.

States

The States included in the survey each year vary, depending on the crops surveyed and to help minimize respondent burden. Field-level data collected in ARMS Phase II surveys do not represent the total U.S. acreage of each crop surveyed, but generally represent over 90 percent of acreage and production of the target commodity. The sampling used in ARMS Phase II was not intended to support State estimates, but sufficient data were obtained in many States to report these estimates. However, the ability to partition data for individual States is very limited.

States surveyed by commodity and year

Apples
2007 CA MI NY NC OR PA WA                                      
Corn
1996     IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE   NC   OH PA SC SD TX WI            
1997     IL IN IA     MI MN MO NE       OH     SD   WI            
1998 CO   IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE   NC   OH PA   SD TX WI            
1999 CO   IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE   NC   OH     SD TX WI            
2000 CO   IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE NY NC ND OH PA   SD TX WI            
2001 CO GA IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE NY NC ND OH PA   SD TX WI              
2005 CO GA IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE NY NC ND OH PA   SD TX WI              
2010 CO GA IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE NY NC ND OH PA SC SD TX WI              

Cotton

1996   AZ AR CA GA LA MS       TN TX                            
1997 AL AZ AR CA GA LA MS MO NC SC TN TX                              
1998 AL AZ AR CA GA LA MS   NC   TN TX                            
1999 AL AZ AR CA GA LA MS   NC   TN TX                            
2000 AL AZ AR CA GA LA MS MO NC   TN TX                            
2003 AL AZ AR CA GA LA MS MO NC SC TN TX                            
2007 AL   AR CA GA LA MS MO NC SC TN TX                            
Soybeans
1996 AR   IL IN IA     LA     MN MS MO NE     OH     TN   WI        
1997 AR DE IL IN IA KS KY LA   MI MN MS MO NE NC   OH PA SD TN   WI        
1998 AR   IL IN IA KS KY LA   MI MN MS MO NE NC   OH   SD TN            
1999 AR   IL IN IA KS KY LA   MI MN MS MO NE NC   OH PA SD TN            
2000 AR   IL IN IA KS KY LA   MI MN MS MO NE NC ND OH   SD TN   WI        
2002 AR   IL IN IA KS KY LA MD MI MN MS MO NE NC ND OH   SD TN VA WI        
2006 AR   IL IN IA KS KY LA   MI MN MS MO NE NC ND OH   SD TN VA WI        
Durum Wheat
1996     ND                                              
1997     ND                                              
1998 CA MT ND SD                                            
2000     ND                                              
2004   MT ND                                              
2009 ID MT ND SD                                            
Other Spring Wheat
1996     MN MT ND                                          
1997     MN MT ND   SD                                      
1998   ID MN MT ND OR SD WA                                    
2000     MN MT ND   SD                                      
2004   ID MN MT ND OR SD WA                                    
2009 CO ID MN MT ND OR SD WA                                    
Winter Wheat
1996     CO DE   ID   KS             MT NE     OK OR   SD     TX WA
1997     CO     ID IL KS           MO MT NE   OH OK OR PA SD     TX WA
1998   CA CO   GA ID IL KS   LA   MN MS MO MT NE NC OH OK OR   SD     TX WA
2000 AR   CO     ID IL KS KY         MO MT NE NC OH OK OR   SD     TX WA
2004     CO     ID IL KS     MI     MO MT NE   OH OK OR   SD     TX WA
2009     CO     ID IL KS     MI MN   MO MT NE ND OH OK OR   SD     TX WA
Peanuts
1999 AL   GA NC TX                                          
2004 AL FL GA NC TX                                          
Potatoes
1996   ID   ME           WA                                
1997   ID   ME   MN ND OR   WA WI                              
1999 CO ID IN ME MI MN ND OR PA WA WI                              
Rice
2000 AR CA LA MS   TX                                        
2006 AR CA LA MS MO TX                                        
Sugarbeets
2000 CA CO ID MI MN MT NE ND OR WA WY                              
Sunflowers
1999 KS ND SD                                              
Oats
2005 IL IA KS MI MN NE NY ND PA SD TX WI                            
Barley
2003 CA ID MN MT ND PA SD WA WI WY                                
Sorghum
2003 CO KS MO NE OK SD TX                                      
Flue-cured Tobacco
1996 GA NC SC                                              
Cow-calf
1996 CA CO FL ID IL KS KY LA MO MT NE NM ND OK OR                      
Hogs
1998 AL AR CO GA IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE NC OH OK SC   SD TN UT VA WI      
2004   AR CO GA IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE NC OH OK   PA SD     VA WI      
2009   AR CO GA IL IN IA KS KY MI MN MO NE NC OH OK   PA SD     VA WI      
Dairy
2000 AZ CA   FL GA ID IL IN IA   KY   MI MN MO NM NY OH   PA TN TX VT VA WA WI
2005 AZ CA   FL GA ID IL IN IA   KY   MI MN MO NM NY OH   PA TN TX VT VA WA WI
2010 AZ CA CO FL GA ID IL IN IA KS KY ME MI MN MO NM NY OH OR PA TN TX VT VA WA WI

Documentation Specific to Farm Structure and Finance

USDA's Economic Research Service and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) have surveyed farmers to obtain information about farm financial conditions and production practices since 1975. Beginning in 1996, standard financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, financial ratios) as well as structural characteristics are summarized annually for various classifications of farms, such as farm type, sales class, region, operator age, and a seven-category farm typology and a three-category typology (rural residence, intermediate and commercial farms) as part of the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS).

Scope/Coverage

Data used to develop information about farms, farm operators, and farm operator households are collected in the annual ARMS surveys of U.S. farms. There are multiple versions of the ARMS each year, including whole-farm and commodity production practice and cost versions. Each production practice and cost version gathers detailed information about input use, field operations, and production costs of a particular commodity. Data are collected by personal interviews with farmers and by mail (beginning in 2003) using questionnaires developed by NASS and ERS.

The ARMS data collection starts during the fall when crop production practice and cost data are collected, and finishes in the spring with collection of whole farm and livestock production practice and cost data.

Data collected for the whole farm include operating characteristics, production practices, farm business financial information, and information the farm operator's household, such as off-farm income. Financial information includes receipts from crop and livestock sales, production contracts, and government payments. Data are collected on expenses incurred in operating the farm, including the inputs necessary for crop and livestock production, and general farm business expenses, including repairs and maintenance, taxes, insurance and rent, and utilities that cannot be associated with a specific farm enterprise. Information on assets used in the farm operation (including those assets that are owned and those not wholly owned but operated by the farm) and liabilities incurred in operating the farm is also collected. In addition data on nonfarm and farm-related income, and nonfarm assets are collected for the farm operator's household.

Summary data on farm structure and farm businesses and their finances are available for production years beginning in 1996. Estimates of sector business and financial data include national and State income estimates and asset, debt, and balance sheet data.

Farm-Level Land Use and Tenure

Land-use and tenure data collected for the whole farm differ from data collected in Phase II at the field level. Each crop enterprise is recorded here, as are the details of crop use, tenure, rental arrangements, production, and program participation.

Phase3LandUseTenure

Farm Business Income

Also recorded at the whole-farm level are data needed to capture sources of income coming to the farm. These include obvious items like receipts from crop and livestock sales, production contracts, and government payments, but also unusual or episodic receipts, such as machine hire or custom work, sale of machinery or equipment, and income from activities in the previous year. Home consumption of goods produced on the farm allows adjustments to income to be made. In addition to the total amount of receipts, their distribution to all those with an interest in the farm business is also recorded.

Phase3FarmBusinessIncome

Farm Business Expense

Data on expenses incurred in operating the farm across all enterprises (beyond the expenses recorded for any fields surveyed in Phase II) are collected in ARMS Phase III.

In addition to the inputs necessary for crop production, such as are collected at the field level, Phase III collects data on repairs and maintenance, taxes, insurance and rent, and utilities that cannot be associated with a specific farm enterprise. Data on capital improvements are also recorded.

Phase3BusinessExpense

Farm Business Finances

Financial attributes of the farm are collected in ARMS Phase III. These include three general categories of data: (1) information on assets used in the farm operation (including those assets that are owned and those not wholly owned but operated by the farm), (2) liabilities incurred in operating the farm, and (3) information on the owners of all types of assets. The distributions of ownership are needed to match the distributions of income flowing from the operation.

Phase3BusinessFinancialStructure

Farm Households

Data on farm households, encompassing both the farm business and other economic activity engaged in by farm household members, are reported in the Farm and Operator Households: Structure and Finance, and the Featured States sections of this tool. Information on detailed farm and household types is classified within the ERS Farm Typology.

Methodology

Each farm sampled in the ARMS represents a known number of farms with similar attributes, so that weighting the data for each farm by the number of farms it represents provides a basis for calculating estimates for the target population. Whole-farm survey weights are adjusted to provide coverage of official USDA farm numbers at the national and regional levels. The weights have also been adjusted to provide coverage of official USDA estimates of the production of major crops and livestock. The target population for the whole-farm survey is all U.S. farms in the 48 contiguous States. A farm is defined as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products (crops and livestock) were sold or normally would have been sold during the survey year.

The financial information was prepared based on the accounting methods recommended by the Farm Financial Standards Council. In addition, selected financial information including farm operator household income, is provided for farm operator households and family farms.

Documentation Specific to Crop Production Practices

Crop Production Practices is a data file based on information collected through a series of annual field-level commodity surveys. Also known as Phase II of the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), this series is USDA's primary source of information about the current status and trends in crop production practices for several large-acreage field crops. This survey also obtains data on U.S. farmers' agricultural resource use, as well as data to assess potential environmental impacts associated with crop production practices. Crop Production Practices data also supplement ERS's Commodity Costs and Returns data.

Scope/Coverage

The ARMS survey annually collects field-level information on chemicals and seeds, equipment, previous crops, highly erodible land, irrigation, and pest, nutrient, and crop residue management practices. The Crop Production Practices data can be summarized by crop, year, ERS Farm Resource Region, irrigation system, previous crop, highly erodible land, and tillage system.

Crop Production Practices provides customized annual data summaries for several field crops and production practice topics for production years beginning in 1996 (years available differ by commodity, see below).

Field Crops

• Corn (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2010)
• Soybeans (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006)
• Oats (2005)
• Spring, durum, and winter wheat (1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2009)
• Cotton (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007)
• Sorghum (2003)
• Barley for malt, barley for feed (2003)
• Peanuts (1999, 2004)
• Rice (2006)

Topics

• Irrigation technology and water use
• Nutrient use and management
• Crop residue management and previous crop
• Pest management
• Pesticide use
• Seed use
• Tillage systems
• Manure management
• Precision technology
• Conservation practices
• Organic production practices
• Crop insurance

Note: Production practices, technologies, and inputs used by farmers vary widely by commodity and region. Hence, data are not available to summarize all of the above topics for each commodity or region in the crop production practices data.

Methodology

The ARMS survey is conducted in three phases over the course of the survey year, which runs from June through April.

  • Phase I, conducted during the summer of the reference year:
    Farmers selected for inclusion in the survey sample are screened to verify their operating status and to determine whether they are producing commodities targeted for data collection.
  • Phase II, conducted in the fall and winter of the reference year:
    Randomly selected operating farms from Phase I are interviewed to collect information on their production practices and chemical use. Phase II mirrors the former Cropping Practices Survey. Phase II data are collected at the individual field or production unit level.
  • Phase III, conducted in the spring of the year following the reference year:
    A nationally representative sample of farmers is interviewed to obtain information on their costs and returns during the reference year. Farmers that reported production practices for specific commodities in Phase II are also contacted to obtain information on their costs and returns, including data needed to estimate the costs of production associated with their production practices. Phase III data are collected at the whole farm level. Phase III replaces the former Farm Costs and Returns Survey.

The time-series data presented in Crop Production Practices were generated from the ARMS Phase II sample data. Sampling weights provided by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) were adjusted for each completed, usable sample by its share of the estimated acres planted with the target crop. A jackknife re-sampling process was used with 15 additional weights from NASS for each sample to estimate the Relative Standard Error (RSE) for each data item.

Phase II data include information on the field itself (such as the soil management practices, previous crops, highly erodible designation, and yield), size of the field, and the operator's tenure, including rental arrangements. Seed type, sowing rate, and cost are collected, as well as information on the tillage equipment used on the field. Amounts of fertilizer and methods of application for the crop are recorded, including information on how the nutrient management decisions are made. Pesticide-management variables include the amount and number of applications of each pesticide ingredient, and the management information used to make that determination. Additional information includes irrigation water applications and timing, drying costs and methods, and the use of crop insurance.

Phase2FieldPractice

Additional crops, technologies, and practices will be added to Crop Production Practices as data are collected and processed.

Last updated: Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For more information contact: Mitch Morehart

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