The ARMS data provide the basis for various USDA estimates, including the annual cost-of-production estimates the department is congressionally mandated to produce for over 15 commodities and the annual estimates of average and net farm income, which in turn are used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to develop GDP and personal income estimates. In addition, the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 requires USDA to produce the Annual Report on Family Farms. In preparing this report, ERS draws on the ARMS data for information on a host of relationships, including:

  • farm participation in agricultural programs and the distribution of farm program payments;

  • the structure and organization of farms, including family and nonfamily ownership;

  • the use of new production technologies and other management practices;

  • farm use of credit;

  • farmers’ participation in off-farm employment; and

  • identifying the characteristics of producers purchasing crop insurance.

Nonprofit Organizations27

While there are gaps in data for studying the performance and economic contribution of nonprofit organizations, many of the data that are collected are publicly available because confidentiality constraints on information (including financial data) are very different. The IRS maintains a continuously updated registry of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, which, in turn, is incorporated into the IRS Business Master File. Unlike other components of the master file, the IRS is allowed to provide public access to information on Forms 900 filed by nonprofits, a condition for tax-exempt status. Information becomes available to the public roughly six months after the IRS rules that an organization qualifies for tax-exempt status. The IRS registry of exempt organizations can be used to identify births and deaths in the sector. Registry data have been used to measure elapsed time from birth to filing Form 990 (David, Pollak, and Arnsberger, 2005) and, with a longer lag, also transitions to inactive status.


To a large extent this description is a summary of a presentation to the panel by Martin David, Urban Institute, on the state of data for measuring activity in the nonprofit sector.

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