The Woodward News

February 3, 2013

USDA discussing agriculture survey

Chris Cooper
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Over the next several months the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistic Service (USDA-NASS) will be gathering information from farmers and ranchers throughout the nation concerning their production practices.

This information will be gathered using the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS).

USDA-NASS Director Wilbert Hundl Jr. said, "Every year the USDA through NASS and the Economic Research Service conducts the ARMS survey to take the pulse of the internal workings of the agricultural industry."

Hundl described ARMS as "the accounting and balance sheet for agriculture."

As part of the survey, he said that information is gathered to see how a particular commodity is produced.  This includes gathering data on production practices and the usage of chemicals, fertilizers and more, he said.

"In other words, what is necessary as far as putting that commodity in the ground and producing it," Hundl said.

The survey also evaluates the accounting side of agriculture, collecting data on input costs, including the price of the fertilizer, fuel, equipment, and other items used in producing a specific commodity, he said.

"Then when you look at the ARMS data set when its completed, one should have a full picture on the well being and financial condition of what agriculture is," Hundl said.

Why is this important?

Hundl said, "When you look at production reports or commodity prices, you're only looking at one side of the equation, and the ARMS data set provides you with both sides. We may be at $8 for wheat, but what's it cost to produce that $8 wheat? That's where ARMS comes in."

In addition to ARMS, NASS will also be conducting the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

As part of the agricultural census, Hundl said data will be collected about "types of farms, demographics of farm population, what types of resources are used on and off the farm and what type of products are produced."

While there are "quite a few similarities" between ARMS and the Census of Agriculture, Hundl explained that "whereas ARMS measures a specific agriculture facet on yearly basis, the census measures the entire structure of agriculture and is only conducted every 5 years. While ARMS provides a more specific look in real time status, the census gives a larger picture of a snapshot in time."

According to a USDA press release, the results from the census and ARMS will provide a baseline for numerous federal policies and programs that affect American farms.

"Responses to the ARMS can be a primary tool for federal, state, and local government representatives and all major farm sector stakeholders to gauge the financial conditions of American farms and ranches. By responding, Oklahoma farmers can ensure that they are accurately represented when it comes to decision making," Hundl said.

Nearly 33,000 producers nationwide including more than 300 from Oklahoma will be asked to participate in participate in the ARMS survey between the months of December and April. Producers will be asked to provide information pertaining to their operation expenditures, production costs, and household characteristics.

To simplify the process, producers' responses to the ARMS survey will fulfill their 2012 Census of Agriculture obligations, so they need not fill out both surveys. Hundl assures all information provided to the NASS surveys by producers will be kept confidential in accordance with the law.

Economic data gathered by ARMS will be published in the annual Farm Production Expenditure Report on Aug. 2, 2013, and all NASS reports will be available online at nass.usda.gov.