Improving Data Collection
and Measurement of
Panel on Improving Data Collection and Reporting about Agriculture with Increasingly Complex Farm Structures
Catherine L. Kling and Christopher Mackie, Editors
Committee on National Statistics
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
A Consensus Study Report of
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
This activity was supported by Contract Number 58-5000-7-0106 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Support for the work of the Committee on National Statistics is provided by a consortium of federal agencies through a grant from the National Science Foundation, a National Agricultural Statistics Service cooperative agreement, and several individual contracts. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-48460-2
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-48460-X
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25260
Additional copies of this publication are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.
Copyright 2019 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Improving Data Collection and Measurement of Complex Farms. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25260.
The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president.
The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.
The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.
Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.
Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.
Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.
For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/whatwedo.
PANEL ON IMPROVING DATA COLLECTION AND REPORTING ABOUT AGRICULTURE WITH INCREASINGLY COMPLEX FARM STRUCTURES
CATHERINE L. KLING (Chair), Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
J. GORDON ARBUCKLE, JR., Department of Sociology, Iowa State University
NORMAN M. BRADBURN, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago
RICHARD A. DUNN, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Connecticut
ALLEN M. FEATHERSTONE, Department of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University
JOSEPH W. GLAUBER, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC
BRENT HUETH, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin–Madison
ANI L. KATCHOVA, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University
DORIS MOLD, Sunrise Agricultural Associates, LLC
JEAN OPSOMER, Westat, Rockville, MD
GREG PETERSON, Agriculture, Energy, Environment and Transportation Statistics Branch, Statistics Canada
KRIJN POPPE, Wageningen University and Research
DANIEL A. SUMNER, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis
JAMES WAGNER, Survey Research Center, University of Michigan
JEREMY G. WEBER, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh
CHRISTOPHER MACKIE, Study Director
MICHAEL SIRI, Program Coordinator
COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL STATISTICS
ROBERT M. GROVES (Chair), Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Department of Sociology, Georgetown University
MARY ELLEN BOCK, Department of Statistics, Purdue University (emerita)
ANNE C. CASE, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
MICHAEL E. CHERNEW, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School
JANET CURRIE, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
DON A. DILLMAN, Department of Sociology and Social and Economic Sciences Research Center, Washington State University
DIANA FARRELL, JPMorgan Chase Institute, Washington, DC
DANIEL KIFER, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University
THOMAS L. MESENBOURG, U.S. Census Bureau (retired)
SARAH M. NUSSER, Office of the Vice President for Research and Department of Statistics, Iowa State University
COLM O’MUIRCHEARTAIGH, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago
JEROME P. REITER, Department of Statistical Science, Duke University
JUDITH A. SELTZER, Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles
C. MATTHEW SNIPP, Department of Sociology, Stanford University
BRIAN HARRIS-KOJETIN, Director
CONSTANCE F. CITRO, Senior Scholar
This report is the product of contributions from many colleagues whom we thank for their time, generosity, and expert guidance. The project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) to help them advance methods for collecting data and reporting information about American agriculture given the changes and increased complexity in farm business structure. Our points of contact at NASS and ERS, Kathleen Ott and Jeffrey Hopkins, respectively, provided not only administrative guidance throughout the study but also considerable subject-matter expertise, especially for the panel’s public information-gathering sessions.
The panel thanks the following agency representatives who attended open meetings and generously gave of their time to present material to inform the panel’s deliberations: Mary Bohman, administrator, ERS; Renee Picanso, deputy administrator, NASS; Barbara Rater, NASS; Marca Weinberg, ERS; and Catherine Woteki, undersecretary for research, education, and economics, USDA. These individuals clearly articulated to the panel USDA’s interests and goals for the study. Joe Parsons, NASS, provided detailed information about the numbers and types of surveys conducted, the portfolio of products and publications created, and the stakeholders who use them. Jeff Hopkins and Marca Weinberg, ERS, outlined how the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) fits into ERS goals and allows the agency to deliver information to stakeholders. Mark Apodaca, NASS, provided insights about how data are kept on NASS’s list frame and about the sampling units used by NASS more broadly. Jim MacDonald, ERS, and Kathleen Ott, NASS, presented a statistical profile of the role and
characteristics of complex farms in the United States. Kathleen answered panel questions about NASS and ERS cognitive testing procedures for ARMS and the Census of Agriculture. Donald Buysse, NASS, presented an overview of data collection and methods for creating estimates from the Census of Agriculture. Andrew Dau, NASS, and Jeff Hopkins, ERS, provided a similar overview of ARMS, also describing key uses of the data. Jeff Bailey and Jody McDaniel, both of NASS, discussed the full range of production surveys conducted by the agency and explained how the roles of these surveys differ from the Census of Agriculture and ARMS. Kevin Barnes, NASS, described the agency’s data collection practices across state offices. Linda Young, NASS, and Dan Prager, ERS, presented information to the panel about farm typology, including the uses and purpose of the “principal operator” construct. Chris Messer, who directs the NASS’s Pacific Region Field Office, discussed the effectiveness of current survey designs as they are implemented in the field. Lance Honig, NASS, discussed the agency’s expanding use of a geographic information system and remote sensing data for improving data collection and research, and reducing respondent burden. Cynthia Nickerson and Steve Wallender, both of ERS, presented information to the panel on current uses of administrative and commercial data in the production of agricultural statistics and visions for next steps.
Beyond USDA, Gaetan St-Louis, director of statistical registers and geography division, Statistics Canada, described methods for dealing with complex statistical structures in Statistics Canada programs. Emily Berg, Iowa State University, presented methodologies for using administrative data across the agricultural statistics system. Amy O’Hara, then of the U.S. Census Bureau, described data linkage programs and use of administrative data across the U.S. statistical system more broadly. Ron Jarmin, U.S. Census Bureau; Carrie Litkowski, Bureau of Economic Analysis; and Dave Talon, Bureau of Labor Statistics, provided comments on this topic from the perspectives of their respective agencies.
The panel also heard from farm operators and decision makers who, crucially, provide data to USDA through survey participation. Don Brown, commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture and himself a farmer, provided insights into workings of complex operations, about responding to the Census (and other surveys), and about complications created by the interaction of operations and family members. Providing insights that were intended to help NASS and ERS understand the respondent experience, improve the comprehensiveness and relevance of their surveys, and increase the value of resultant data and statistics to users were Kevin Phillips, Michael David Winery; Jim Rickert, Prather Ranch, Shasta County; and Tony Turkovich, Button and Turkovich Ranch, Yolo County. Each attended a panel meeting to share their observations about NASS data
collection activities. Mr. Turkovich gave generously of his time by leading a tour of his farm so that panel members could observe firsthand the business relationships involved in the production processes of a large multiproduct operation.
The panel was able to learn more about the demand for USDA data beyond “official” uses (e.g., mandates, principal economic indicators, administration of strategic goals, and enforcing laws and regulations) from Jody Campiche, Economics and Policy Analysis, National Cotton Council; Mitch Morehart, Authoritative Analytics; and Bob Young, Public Policy, American Farm Bureau Federation. Jim MacDonald, ERS, and Jody McDaniel, NASS, provided additional information about data demands for informing public policy issues and generating information used by stakeholder groups.
The panel could not have conducted its work efficiently without the capable staff of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Brian Harris-Kojetin, director, Committee on National Statistics, provided institutional leadership and substantive contributions during meetings; Kirsten Sampson-Snyder, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, expertly coordinated the review process; and Marc DeFrancis provided thorough final editing that improved the readability of the report for a wide audience. We also thank program coordinator Michael Siri for his well-organized and efficient logistical support of the panel’s meetings, as well as his contribution to assembling and formatting of this report. On behalf of the panel, I thank the study director Christopher Mackie for his unfailing good humor, excellent organization, patience in working with an often-distracted chair, and attention to detail in all dimensions of producing the work. The quality and timeliness of this report would not have been possible without his substantial contributions.
Finally, and most importantly, a note of appreciation is in order for my fellow panel members. This report reflects the collective expertise and commitment of all panel members: J. Gordon Arbuckle, Iowa State University; Norman Bradburn, University of Chicago; Richard Dunn, University of Connecticut; Allen Featherstone, Kansas State University; Joseph W. Glauber, International Food Policy Research Institute; Brent Hueth, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Ani Katchova, The Ohio State University; Doris Mold, Sunrise Agricultural Associates, LLC; Jean Opsomer, Westat; Greg Peterson, Statistics Canada; Krijn Poppe, Wageningen University and Research; Daniel Sumner, University of California, Davis; James Wagner, University of Michigan; and Jeremy Weber, University of Pittsburgh. This group—chosen for their diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and subject-matter knowledge—gave generously of their time to attend meetings and to apply their expertise in the production of this report.
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals
chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: David E. Bell, Agriculture and Business, Harvard Business School; Mary Ellen Bock, Department of Statistics, Purdue University; Katherine Smith Evans, Government Relations, American Economic Association; David Freshwater, Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky; Eldon Gould, producer, Gould Farms, Maple Park, Illinois; Carol House, independent consultant; Philip L. Martin, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis; and Mitchell Morehart, owner, Authoritative Analytics, LLC., Palmyra, Virginia. Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Cynthia Clark, NASS (retired), and Charles Manski, Department of Economics, Northwestern University. Appointed by the National Academies’ Report Review Committee, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
Catherine L. Kling, Chair
Panel on Improving Data Collection and Reporting about Agriculture with Increasingly Complex Farm Structures