metadata (data about individual data items and questions) and paradata (data about the data collection process, whether from the respondent’s or interviewer’s perspective).


The conditions for success in minimizing measurement error are established in the arrangements made for data collection and capture. The administrative arrangements should be documented, stable, and treated to continuous examination and improvement. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has chosen to manage data collection by capitalizing on the strong foundation of a long-term relationship with cooperating state agriculture departments and, through that connection, securing the interviewer staff. The cooperative agreement the agency has with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) has been the mechanism used for field data collection for the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) and its predecessors, the Census of Agriculture, and all of its surveys since 1978 (National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, 2007). Prior to this cooperative agreement, federal employee interviewers were used for the surveys that preceded ARMS and other NASS surveys.

The NASDA mission is to represent the state departments of agriculture in the development, implementation, and communication of sound public policy and programs that support and promote the American agricultural industry, while protecting consumers and the environment. The cooperative agreement with NASS is one of three cooperative agreement programs that support that goal for NASDA.2

The cooperative agreement with NASS is big business for NASDA. In 2007, it was funded at approximately $27 million. In turn, the NASDA cooperative agreement is the largest cooperative agreement in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Under the guidance of the NASDA national office in Washington, 3,400 part-time (not more than 1,500 hours per year) interviewers are managed through a network of 46 NASDA state field offices—some of which represent multiple states. A total of 43 of the field offices have responsibility for conducting ARMS data collection (those in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico do not).

The field staff of 1,400 interviewers and the office/telephone interviewer staff of about 2,100 are deployed and managed by about 520 NASDA supervisors, who are largely recruited from the interviewer pool. The NASS


The other two cooperative agreements are with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Foreign Agricultural Service.

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