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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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