SURVEY DESCRIPTION

ARMS is USDA’s primary source of information on the financial condition, production practices, and resource use of farms, as well as the economic well-being of America’s farm households. Its data are essential to USDA and other federal administrative, congressional, and private-sector decision makers when they must weigh alternative policies and programs or business strategies that touch the farm sector or affect farm families (Box 1-1).

The basic USDA definition of a farm is any place from which $1,000 or more in nominal terms of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would or could have been sold, during the census year. This definition is common to both the Census of Agriculture and ARMS, and is reflected in the terms “census farms” and “census-defined farms.” The definition has been steady for many years and encompasses many small, hard-to-measure businesses, which are difficult to identify and survey.

ARMS comprehensively provides observations of field-level farm practices, the economics of farm businesses operating the field (or dairy herd, greenhouse, nursery, poultry house, etc.), and the characteristics of the

BOX 1-1

A Thumbnail Sketch of the ARMS Program

The Agricultural Resource Management Survey is the primary source of information for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the public on a broad range of issues about U.S. agricultural resource use, costs, and farm-sector financial conditions. It is the only source of information available for objective evaluation of many critical issues related to agriculture and the rural economy. The survey is conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in collaboration with the Economic Research Service (ERS).

The survey sample is designed to provide coverage of all farms in the 48 contiguous states plus state-level data for 15 major farm states. The population of farms, as defined by the Census of Agriculture, includes all establishments that produced and sold (or would normally or could have sold) at least $1,000 of agricultural products during the previous year. A sample from the NASS list frame is supplemented by a geographic sample of area tracts to ensure complete coverage.

ARMS collects data for whole farms and commodity-specific production practice and cost data, on a rotating basis, for selected commodities in Phase II of the survey and in commodity-specific versions of Phase III. The survey collects data in three phases:

  • Phase I, the ARMS screening survey, collects general farm data, such as crops grown, livestock inventory, and the value of sales. Screening data are used to qualify (or screen) farms for the subsequent phases. Phase I is conducted from May through July.



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