ERS Data Product Quality Reviews

The ERS Data Product Review Council (DPRC) completed its eleventh round of data product reviews, Upcoming reviews planned for Spring 2024 are listed below. The review process is used to evaluate data products adheres to ERS’s Data Quality Standards using the ERS Data Product Quality Review: Evaluation Checklist.

Upcoming Reviews

Date: Spring 2024

Council members: Molly Burress (Chair), Katherine Ralston, Mark Denbaly, Jae-Wan Ahn, Carrie Jones, Tatiana Borisova, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Megan Husby, Mark Fairhurst, Gregory York (Manager), 

Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables: This data product contains summary statistics on sugar, sugarbeets, sugarcane, corn sweeteners (dextrose, glucose, and high-fructose corn syrup), and honey. The majority of the data are compiled from the following USDA agencies: Agricultural Marketing Service, Farm Service Agency, Foreign Agricultural Service, National Agricultural Statistic Service, and Office of the Chief Economist. These data can be used to monitor and analyze U.S. sweetener policy and events that affect the domestic, Mexican, and other international sweetener markets.

Purchase to Plate: The Purchase to Plate Suite (PP-Suite) is a set of data products developed by linking household and retail grocery scanner data with the USDA Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS), one of USDA’s nutrition databases. The National Average Prices allow users to import price estimates for foods found in USDA dietary survey data. Restricted access elements of the Purchase to Plate Suite include the Crosswalk, Price Tool, and Ingredient Tool.

Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States: Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States (FATUS) is a standard USDA aggregation of several thousand Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) codes into hierarchical agricultural groups most used by the public. Using the FATUS groupings, this data product presents summary tables of U.S. merchandise trade, U.S. agricultural trade, value of high-value and bulk commodities, and top country export destinations and import sources for total U.S. agricultural trade.

Completed Reviews

Date: Fall 2023

Council members: Katherine Ralston (Chair), Mark Denbaly, Jae-Wan Ahn, Carrie Jones, Tatiana Borisova, Molly Burress, Yacob Zereyesus, Beth Couturier, Trina Weilert, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Megan Husby, Mark Fairhurst, Gregory York (Manager), 

Fertilizer Use and Price: This product summarizes fertilizer consumption in the United States by plant nutrient and major fertilizer products—as well as consumption of mixed fertilizers, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients—for 1960 through the latest year for which statistics are available.

Review summary: Future releases will provide machine readable files that align with the latest 508 accessibility standards and additional documentation for users. 

Cotton, Wool, and Textile Data: This data product contains data on U.S. and world cotton supply, demand, and prices, U.S. wool supply, demand, and prices, and U.S. textile and apparel fiber trade data. The data product is maintained by the Economic Research Service to support related commodity market analysis and research.

Review summary: As part of continuous product improvement, this product will enhance accessibility, machine readability, and documentation

Fruit and Tree Nuts Data: Fruit and Tree Nuts Data provide users with comprehensive statistics on fresh and processed fruits, melons, and tree nuts in the United States, as well as some global data for these sectors. It harmonizes and integrates data from the ERS market outlook program with data collected by different Federal and international statistical agencies to facilitate analyses of economic performance over time and across domestic and foreign markets.

Review summary: As part of continuous product improvement, this product will enhance accessibility, machine readability, and documentation.

Date: Summer 2023

Council members: Katherine Ralston (Chair), Mark Denbaly, Jae-Wan Ahn, Carrie Jones, Tatiana Borisova, Molly Burress, Yacob Zereyesus, Beth Couturier, Trina Weilert, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Gregory York (Manager)

Natural Amenities Scale: The natural amenities scale is a data product that provides a measure of the physical characteristics of a county area that enhance the location as a place to live. The scale is based on six measures of climate, topography, and water area that reflect environmental qualities most people prefer. The data are available for counties in the lower 48 States.

Review summary: The next update of this product will feature machine-readable data files that align with the latest 508 accessibility standards. Also, the product will supplement documentation with information about strengths and limitations of the product, links to source data accuracy measures, and a recommended data product citation.

International Macroeconomic Data Set: The International Macroeconomic Data Set provides historical and projected data for 181 countries that account for more than 99 percent of the world economy. These data and projections are assembled explicitly to serve as underlying assumptions for the annual USDA Agricultural Projections, which provide a 10-year outlook on U.S. and global agriculture. The macroeconomic projections describe the long-term, 10-year scenario that is used as a benchmark for analyzing the impacts of alternative scenarios and macroeconomic shocks. 

Review summary: As part of continuous product improvement, additional details will be added to documentation for this data set and files will be provided in open, machine-readable format such as a comma separated value file.

Livestock and Meat International Trade Data: The Livestock and Meat International Trade Data product includes monthly and annual data for imports and exports of live cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, beef and veal, pork, lamb and mutton, chicken meat, turkey meat, eggs and egg products.

Review summary: As part of continuous product improvement, Livestock and Meat International Trade Data will add improvements to internal documentation of data quality and security procedures; documentation for users; archival capability; and data accessibility.

Date: Fall-Winter 2022-23

Council members: Katherine Ralston (Chair), Mark Denbaly, Jae-Wan Ahn, Carrie Jones, Tatiana Borisova, Molly Burress, Yacob Zereyesus, Beth Couturier, Trina Weilert, Gregory York (Manager)

Agricultural Productivity in the U.S.: This premier data product provides a historical snapshot of U.S. farm sector productivity from 1948 – 2019 and an in-depth analysis across States from 1960–2004. The product gives users insights on agricultural outputs, inputs, growth metrics, relative productivity levels, and price and quantity indices for outputs and inputs. Tables include price and quantity indices for agricultural inputs and outputs and summarize sources of growth.

Review summary: Upcoming releases will feature machine-readable data files that align with the latest 508 accessibility standards. In the coming months, we’ll be adding information about the strengths and limitations of this product, as well as a recommended data product citation.

Food Security in the United States: The Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement (CPS FSS) is the source of national and State-level statistics on food insecurity used in USDA's annual reports on household food security. The CPS is a monthly labor force survey of about 50,000 households conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Once each year, after answering the labor force questions, the same households are asked a series of questions (the Food Security Supplement) about food security, food expenditures, and use of food and nutrition assistance programs. Food security data have been collected by the CPS FSS each year since 1995. 

Review summary: The Council found the product meets all U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directives and best practices by Federal Principal Statistical Agencies. In addition, the Council suggested ways to make the documentation and accuracy measures more readily accessible on the Economic Research Service (ERS) website.

Frontier and Remote Area Codes: The ZIP-code-level Frontier and Remote Area (FAR) codes provide a delineation that is both geographically detailed and adjustable with reasonable ranges. The FAR codes are both geographically detailed and adjustable, in order to be usefully applied in diverse research and policy  contexts.

Review summary: This product was reviewed by the ERS Data product Review Council. We will be
adding to our documentation about internal security procedures, the construction of key variables,
reliability and validity information, and how the FAR delineation differs from others. Future
changes to this product will include making the product machine readable.

Livestock and Meat Domestic Data: The ERS Livestock and Meat Domestic Data page includes data files covering domestic meat supply, disappearance, as well as live animal and wholesale prices for red meat and poultry products. 

Review summary: As part of continuous product improvement, Livestock and Meat Domestic Data will develop product documentation for users, an open format (machine readable) version of the data, and enhanced internal documentation of data quality and security procedures.

Rural-Urban Commuting Area Codes: The RUCA codes dataset is an innovative tool that redefines the U.S. census tracts classification with metrics such as population density, urbanization, and daily commuting. Our 2010 RUCA classifications have been meticulously applied to ZIP code areas, ensuring an in-depth look into your local neighborhoods.

Review summary: This product was reviewed by the ERS Data product Review Council. Upcoming enhancements for this product include updating the documentation with key information about how we construct the variables, reliability and validity of information, and how our datasets stand apart from others. Also, upcoming releases will include a machine-readable, open-source version of the data.

Wheat Data: This data product contains summary statistics on the five classes of wheat: Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Soft Red Winter, White, and Durum. This product includes data related to the monthly Wheat Outlook and monthly updates to the Wheat Yearbook tables.

Review summary: Following review, the data product will incorporate improved documentation for users, improved documentation of data quality and security procedures, and provide a machine-readable open format version of the data.

Date: Fall-Winter 2021-22

Council members: Mark Denbaly (Chair), Xuan Pham, Carrie Jones, Beth Couturier, Trina Weilert, Jessica Todd, Yacob Zereyesus, Katherine Ralston

Ag Exchange Rate Data Set: This dataset contains annual and monthly data for exchange rates important to U.S. agriculture. It includes both nominal and real exchange rates for 79 countries, plus the European Union (EU), as well as real trade-weighted exchange rate indexes for many commodities and aggregations. All series are updated quarterly; data series start at the beginning of 1970 and run to the last available data point.

Review summary: The Council recommends improvements in branding; adding information about accuracy of the data to documentation; and adding versions of the data that are machine readable, open format, and 508 compliant. Following review, the product will add information about accuracy of the data to documentation and add versions of the data that are machine readable, open format, and 508 compliant.

State Fact Sheets:  The ERS State Fact Sheets provide information on population, income, poverty, food security, education, employment/unemployment, farm characteristics, farm financial indicators, top commodities, and agricultural exports. Data are available for all States, and for metro/nonmetro breakouts within States. Links to available county-level data are included where applicable.

Review summary: Following review, the product will add release dates to its web pages, maintain a list of its key stakeholders, and conduct an informal solicitation of feedback from its key stakeholders to identify the most relevant content and needs.

Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes  Based on the 2015-18 National Health and Nutrition Examination data, this data product provides data on food consumption and nutrient intake by food source and demographic characteristics among U.S. consumers.  In addition to reporting average intake amounts, food and nutrient consumption is expressed in terms of density (amounts of food and nutrient for each 1,000 of caloric intake), which can be compared with the Federal dietary recommendations to assess U.S. consumers’ dietary status and gain insights about shortfalls in American diets relative to the dietary guidelines.   

Review summary: Following review, the product will add information about the potential update schedule to the overview page; update internal documentation of stakeholders and procedures for error minimization and data security; and update external documentation with information about accuracy of the data; and information about similar data reported by ARS.

Date: Spring-Summer 2019

Council members: Utpal Vasavada (Chair), Mark Denbaly, Lewrene Glaser, Mary Maher, Dan Milkove, Katherine Ralston, Stacy Sneeringer, and Pheny Weidman

Normalized Prices provides a calculation of prices of key agricultural inputs and outputs like crops, livestock, and dairy. The prices are smoothed out through moving averages to adjust for the effects of short run seasonal or cyclical variation.

Review summary: The Council recommends that the data should be reviewed by an independent and knowledgeable ERS subject matter expert. The Council also recommends providing a link on the product’s documentation page to information on data quality from the original source; discussing the differences between ERS estimates and price indices published by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service; providing the data in machine readable and open formats; meeting 508 requirements; and using web metrics to inform product usability and product refinement.

Rural-Urban Continuum Codes form a classification scheme that distinguishes metropolitan (metro) counties by the population size of their metro area and nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) counties by the degree of urbanization and adjacency to metro areas.

Review summary: The Council recommends improving ERS branding; providing a CSV version of the data files; providing a link on the product’s documentation page to information on data quality from the original source; documenting data review and data security procedures; and conducting research to examine methods and operations.

State Export Data provide estimates of annual U.S. agricultural export values by State and commodity.

Review summary: The Council recommends improving ERS branding; providing the data in machine readable and open formats; providing a link on the product’s documentation page to information on data quality from the original source; meeting 508 requirements; and documenting data security procedures.

U.S. Food Imports provides import values of edible products (food and beverages) entering U.S. ports and their origin of shipment. Food and beverage import values are compiled by calendar year into food groups corresponding to major commodities or level of processing.

Review summary: The Council recommends adding ERS branding to the data files; providing the data in machine readable and open formats; providing a link on the product's documentation page to information on data quality from the original source; meeting 508 requirements; using web metrics to inform product usability and product refinement; and developing an archival capability going back 5 years.

Urban Influence Codes form a classification scheme that distinguishes metropolitan (metro) counties by the population size of their metro area and nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) counties by the size of the largest city or town and proximity to metro and micropolitan areas.

Review summary: The Council recommends improving ERS branding; providing a CSV version of the data files; providing a link on the product’s documentation page to information on data quality from the original source; documenting data review and data security procedures; and conducting research to examine methods and operations.

Date: Summer-Fall 2018

Council members: Utpal Vasavada (Chair), Bryce Cooke, Mark Denbaly, Lewrene Glaser, Mary Maher, Dan Milkove, Katherine Ralston, and Pheny Weidman

Agricultural Research Funding in the Public and Private Sectors provides data for public and private funding of food and agricultural research and development over the years 1970-2015 (public) and 1970-2014 (private) in nominal dollars and in values adjusted for inflation.

Review summary: The Council recommends providing a statement on the product’s overview page for the estimated next release date; soliciting feedback from stakeholders to improve the data product; documenting procedures for data quality review, confidentiality protection, and pre‐release security; monitoring web usage statistics to inform product usage and refinement; and improving compliance with standards for machine readability and open (e.g., CSV) formats.

Farm Household Income and Characteristics provides the latest household income forecast and estimates for principal operators of U.S. family farms, including data on beginning, socially disadvantaged, and limited-resource farmers; and health insurance coverage and expenditures of farm operator households.

Review summary: The Council recommends providing documentation for the ERS‐generated estimates and forecasts as distinct from USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data; adding ERS branding to Farm Household Characteristics files; documenting procedures for confidentiality protection and pre‐release security; adding versions of the files that contain information in a structured, machine‐readable format; adding tables in an open CSV format; assessing compliance with section 508 standards; and using web metrics to inform product usage and guide potential product refinements.

Fruits and Vegetable Prices provides information on retail costs of U.S. fruits and vegetables. ERS estimates average retail prices for over 150 commonly consumed fresh and processed fruits and vegetables.

Review summary: The Council recommends adding an explanation to the documentation on how the data product differs from other data sources by measuring costs per edible cup-equivalent; providing a discussion of accuracy measures; incorporating the sample weights from RTI International work into the methods used; and adding machine-readable files to the data product.

SNAP Policy Database provides a central data source for information on State-level program policies in USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), such as eligibility criteria, recertification and reporting requirements, benefit issuance methods, and availability of online applications.

Review summary: The Council recommends improving documentation to meet the ERS documentation guidelines; creating a data quality review procedure; reporting data quality measures or including links about such accuracy information from the original sources; and adding ERS branding and source citations to the files.

U.S. Bioenergy Statistics is a source of information on biofuels intended to present a picture of the renewable energy industry and its relationship to agriculture. The statistics highlight the factors that influence the demand for agricultural feedstocks for biofuels production; for instance, numerous tables emphasize the relationship between energy and commodity markets.

Review summary: The Council recommends including machine-readable and open format (e.g., CSV) files; improving the documentation; adding variance measures for ERS estimates; documenting review procedures for data quality and privacy/confidentiality; assessing compliance with section 508 standards; and using web metrics to inform product usage and product refinement.

Vegetables and Pulses Data provides users with comprehensive statistics on fresh and processed vegetables and pulses in the United States, as well as global production and trade data for these sectors. The product harmonizes and integrates data from the ERS Market Outlook program with data collected by different Federal and international statistical agencies to facilitate analyses of economic performance over time and across domestic and foreign markets.

Review summary: The Council recommends adding ERS branding to the product; improving product documentation, including methodology, accuracy measures for ERS generated estimates, links to source agency data-quality web pages, and an explanation of similar Federal statistics elsewhere; using web metrics to inform product refinement; documenting data security procedures; and assessing compliance with section 508 standards.

Date: Fall 2017-Spring 2018

Council members: Mark Denbaly (Chair), Bryce Cooke, Lewrene Glaser, Mary Maher, Dan Milkove, Katherine Ralston, Utpal Vasavada, and Pheny Weidman

ARMS – Farm Financial: USDA's Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) is the primary source of information on the financial condition, production practices, resource use, and economic well-being of farm households. The December 8, 2016, release includes information on farm finances from the 2015 ARMS survey, now available through the Farm and Household Finance Tailored Reports.

Review summary: The Council recommends that the following actions be taken: provide documentation for the ERS-generated data used by the tailored report tool, as distinct from the ARMS data; add information to document differences from similar statistics reported by other Federal sources; test usability and assess compliance with section 508 standards; document procedures for confidentiality protection and prerelease security; add ERS/NASS branding and metadata to  generated reports; and add information to alert users to the next release of new data.

Food Environment Atlas: The Food Environment Atlas is a web-based mapping tool developed by ERS that allows users to compare U.S. counties in terms of their "food environment"—indicators (most at the county level) that help determine and reflect a community’s access to affordable, healthy food.

Review summary: As a premier ERS data product, the Food Environment Atlas is held to a high standard of data quality. The Council recommends adding notes to documentation on data quality (with links to further information from original sources where available), adding ERS branding and data sources to Excel files, and conducting external review of methods/content and communication quality. The Council also recommends providing more advance notice on upcoming updates and providing revision history.

National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS): USDA's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) is a nationally representative survey of household food purchases and acquisitions.

Review summary: As a premier ERS data product, FoodAPS is held to a high standard of data quality. The Council recommends revising the FoodAPS webpages to reflect that FoodAPS-2 has been awarded (with an expected year of data availability) and to identify the substantial changes in FoodAPS-2.

International Agricultural Productivity: This data product provides agricultural output, input, and total factor productivity (TFP) growth rates across the countries and regions of the world in a consistent, comparable way for 1961–2013.

Review summary: The Council recommends that the following actions be taken: develop prerelease review procedures for both data accuracy and prerelease security, report measures of accuracy for statistically appropriate data elements, address requirements for section 508 standards, use web metrics to inform product usage and guide potential product refinements, provide advance public notice if substantial changes to the data product occur in the future, and explore additional training opportunities on data quality.

International Food Security: This dataset is the basis for the International Food Security Assessment, 2017–27, released in July 2017. It provides annual country-level data on production, consumption, and trade of grains and root and tuber crops, food aid, and macroeconomic variables for 76 countries.

Review summary: The Council recommends adding ERS branding to individual Excel files; developing a data management plan to address requirements for machine readability, open data, and 508 standards; strengthening communication with stakeholders through soliciting feedback; using web metrics to inform usage and guide potential refinements;  adding update and revision history to the product’s documentation page; and making information on review processes available to the branch chief and division management.

Major Land Uses: The Major Land Uses (MLU) series is the longest running, most comprehensive accounting of all major uses of public and private land in the United States. The MLU series contains acreage estimates of major uses by region and State, beginning in 1945 and published about every 5 years since.

Review summary: The Council recommends that the following actions be taken:  develop an memorandum of understanding from Federal Government agencies for special tabulations of public data; add a documentation page describing the methodology and links to the main report; add more information on the differences between similar statistics reported by other Federal sources; provide links on accuracy measures from the underlying data sources; conduct an informal external review by users/stakeholders;  use web statistics to improve the data product; provide advance notice of any substantial changes in sources and methods of collecting data; assess compliance with section 508 standards; add metadata and next update dates to the ERS calendar; and add a second CSV file for the summary table 3.

Oil Crops Yearbook: Oilseed, oil meal, and fats and oils supply and use statistics. Includes oilseed acreage, yield, and production estimates and farm and wholesale price series.

Review summary: The Council recommends additional documentation for the data product in a separate documentation page that provides an overview, brief information about the sources and methods of the original data with links to the original sources for details on collection, estimation methodology, and accuracy measures/data quality. Moving forward, the documentation should include a revision history of methods used for ERS-generated estimates to provide transparency and reproducibility. The Council also recommends moving toward compliance with standards for machine readability, open format, and section 508 compliance. Web metrics are recommended to guide potential product refinements.

Date: Winter 2016/17

Council members: Mark Denbaly (Chair), Lewrene Glaser, Stephen MacDonald, Mary Maher, Daniel Milkove, Katherine Ralston, Utpal Vasavada, and Pheny Weidman

County Typology Codes classify all U.S. counties according to six mutually exclusive categories of economic dependence and six overlapping categories of policy-relevant themes. They provide a convenient tool to summarize rural economic and social conditions, and are thus used by other Federal agencies and academia.

Review summary: While the Council found the product to be compliant with many of the quality standards, there is room for improvement in a few areas. Information should be provided to users on differences between ERS's codes and Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) codes for Persistent Poverty Counties. The Council also recommends improving branding in the Excel files, adding a general description of the probability of misclassification to the documentation with links to accuracy measures for the input data sources, and conducting an external review of methods and research to improve methods. The Council notes that 508 testing has not been done on the product.

Dairy Data covers U.S. supply, demand, and trade for milk and major dairy products.

Review summary: The Council recommends a number of improvements to the data product, including more transparent and comprehensive documentation of all tables and data sources. The Council also suggests using web metrics to inform product usage and product refinement, as well as reporting accuracy measures and/or adding links to the documentation to source agency data-quality pages. Review procedures for ERS-generated estimates should be documented and available upon request. The Council would like the Market and Trade Economics Division to consider interagency agreements with the sources of nonpublic estimates wherever appropriate rather than relying solely on informal arrangements.

Season-Average Price Forecasts provides three Excel file spreadsheet models that use futures prices to forecast the U.S. season-average price received and the implied Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payment rate for three major field crops (corn, soybeans, and wheat).

Review summary: The Council found the data product to have good usability and documentation. The Council's top recommendation is to add information on accuracy of the estimates. In addition, the Council suggests documenting and making available on request the procedures for pre-dissemination review and prerelease security because the data product draws on proprietary data. Consultation with Market and Trade Economics Division, Office of the Director is encouraged to address accessibility issues.

Eating and Health Module is a supplement to the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey that captures information on secondary eating and drinking, food shopping and preparation, health, and household income.

Review summary: The Council found the product to be in compliance with most of the data quality standards. The Council recommends adding accuracy measures for all ERS-generated estimates, documenting the review process and making the documentation available on request, providing advance notice of the next release on the product’s overview page, and conducting an independent, external review of methods of ERS-generated estimates.

Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer estimates farm-to-retail price spreads to measure the costs of processing and marketing foods. They are calculated as the difference between the prices farmers receive for the raw commodities they sell and the prices consumers pay for equivalent food products. Estimates are reported for individual foods and food baskets that represent a typical household’s purchases over 1 year.

Review summary: As a premier ERS data product, the product is held to a high standard of data quality. While the product meets many of the key standards, the Council noted potential improvements. The Council recommends usability testing and an external review of quality of communication and methods. The Council also suggests developing a data management plan, providing accuracy measures of reported estimates, and developing procedures to protect proprietary data from involuntary disclosure.

Date: Spring 2016

Council members: Lewrene Glaser (Chair), Mark Denbaly, Hisham El Osta, Karen Hamrick, Stephen MacDonald, Mary Maher, Utpal Vasavada, and Pheny Weidman

Farm Income and Wealth Statistics provides the latest U.S. farm-sector income and wealth statistics data. The data include historical U.S. and State-level farm income and wealth estimates as well as U.S.-level forecasts for the current calendar year.

Review summary: As a premier ERS data product, the product is held to a high standard of data quality. The Council found that nearly all aspects of the data product were in compliance. However, there is room for improvement in a few areas. While the web tables are branded, the Excel summary tables and some application-download formats are not. The Excel tables do not cite sources, and this could be remedied by providing this information.

Food Access Research Atlas provides spatial indicators of food access in low-income and other census tracts, and enables users to create maps depicting food access for selected populations by census tract using different measures and indicators of supermarket accessibility. The data can be downloaded for community planning or research purposes.

Review summary: As a premier ERS data product, the product is held to a high standard of data quality. While the product meets many of the standards, the Council noted a few potential improvements. The map images and spreadsheets can benefit from adding branding (and title and source) information. In addition, the Council recommends that the quarter and year in which the product is targeted for its next release be announced in advance on the ERS calendar.

Food Expenditures annually measures total U.S. food expenditures, including purchases by consumers, governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. ERS developed the series in 1987, and data are available from 1929 through 2014.

Review summary: The Council recommends that the Food Economics Division (FED) consider revising the data product to ensure that it satisfies agency data-quality standards while committing resources and economic expertise to sufficiently support the product. A decision by FED to retain the data product should 1) ensure that the objectivity criteria are met; 2) update the data production process; 3) revise overview and documentation to incorporate information on the international component; 4) engage stakeholders to enhance the communication quality of the information; 5) assess and document pre-dissemination review and pre-release security processes; and 6) validate that accessibility elements satisfy the open data requirements.

Meat Price Spreads provides monthly average price values, and the differences among those values, at the farm, wholesale, and retail stages of the production and marketing chain for selected cuts of beef, pork, and broilers.

Review summary: The Council recommends a number of improvements to the product in order to meet ERS’s data quality standards. This includes an external review of methods, using web metrics to inform product usage and product refinement, and adding links to the documentation to source agency data-quality pages. The procedures for storage, security, and processing of nonpublic data and for review and pre-release security should be documented and available on request. This important product has the potential to become a premier product with even further investment by the Market and Trade Economics Division and the Data Product Manager.

Organic Prices offers wholesale prices for select organic and conventional fruits and vegetables, first receiver prices for organic poultry and eggs, and f.o.b. and spot market prices for organic grain and feedstuffs.

Review summary: The Council suggests the next release of this data product be branded with complete citation of data sources, and be announced in advance on the ERS calendar. Clarity about the internal and external stakeholders of this product can be enhanced. It is unclear whether the current review process applies to both the methodology and the data. Review procedures for the data should be documented and made available upon request.

Phytosanitary Regulation identifies which countries, under USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service phytosanitary rules, are eligible to export to the United States the fresh fruits and vegetables that are most important in the American diet.

Review summary: The Council recommends that the Market and Trade Economics Division (MTED) evaluate the resource commitment needed to sufficiently support the data product in a way that satisfies ERS data quality standards or archive it. If MTED continues to maintain the product, the Council recommends engaging stakeholders to enhance the communications quality of the information. The procedures for storage, security, and processing of nonpublic data and for review and pre-release security should be documented and made available upon request. Also, the Council recommends, in the next release of the data product, improving the branding of the data tables with a complete and comprehensive citation of data sources. If the product is not archived, a data management plan to address Federal Open Data Guidelines is needed.

Date: Fall 2015

Council members: Lewrene Glaser (Chair), Mark Denbaly, Hisham El Osta, Karen Hamrick, Stephen MacDonald, Mary Maher, Utpal Vasavada, and Pheny Weidman

Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S. summarizes the adoption of herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant crops since their introduction in 1996. Data for 2000-15 cover genetically engineered varieties of corn, cotton, and soybeans for the United States and States.

Review summary: While the Council found the data product was generally in compliance, some areas warrant further attention. The Council recommends providing the data in open, machine-readable formats. Although USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is cited as the source of the data, the tables are not branded as coming from ERS. Moreover, revisions in the NASS surveys and/or ERS adjustments should be separately documented. Also note that monitoring web stats can help guide improvements to the data product and provide information on usage patterns.

Agricultural Trade Multipliers provide estimates of employment and/or output effects of trade in farm and food products on the U.S. economy. These effects, when expressed as multipliers, reflect the amount of economic activity and/or jobs generated by agricultural exports.

Review summary: To better identify the estimates as coming from ERS, the Council recommends that the ERS Estimates and the Calculator output tables be sourced as coming from ERS. The estimates and calculator output should also be in format that is machine readable. As a premier ERS data product, the product is held to a high standard of data quality, and thus, processes for review and pre-release security need to be documented and available upon request. In the future, should any substantial modifications be made to the model, prior notice on the ERS calendar and on the data product’s overview page is recommended.

Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America assembles statistics on people, jobs, agriculture, and county types. Data have been updated to reflect the latest population, poverty, and American Community Survey statistics.

Review summary: While the Council found nearly all aspects of the data product were in compliance, it found that some areas warrant attention. The Council suggests adding sources to the Read Me tab in the Excel files and including the next update date on the product’s overview page. In addition, the Council recommends elaborating on the statistical methods and operational procedures used to derive the compiled data based on the Resource and Rural Economics Division research program on rural America.

Cost Estimates of Foodborne Illnesses offers detailed data about the costs of major foodborne illnesses in the United States, updating and extending previous ERS research.

Review summary: This is a new data product, and as such, meets most of the standards. However being new, the data product has not needed to meet some of the standards, such as advance notice of substantial changes. The Council encourages keeping these standards in mind going forward. The Council recommends providing data in an open format, undertaking further research on model performance, adding to the documentation a discussion of the measures of statistical accuracy and/or the limitations of the data, and reviewing pre-release security procedures.

Food Price Outlook provides ERS food price forecasts for the short-term period. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for food is probably the most widely used indicator of changes in retail food prices.

Review summary: As a premier ERS data product, it is held to a high standard of data quality. In nearly all respects, the Council was satisfied with the present system. However, the Council recommends providing the data in open, machine-readable formats. The Council also suggests documenting internal processes for review and pre-release security.

Rice Yearbook offers data on U.S. rice production, supply, disappearance, trade, and prices. Includes State acreage, yield, and production data; U.S. and world price series; program statistics; and world supply and use estimates.

Review summary: The Council strongly recommends a separate, comprehensive documentation page, including items such as the methodology and revision history for ERS-generated estimates, differences in ERS data series vs. those published by other agencies, and links to other agencies’ web pages that discuss their data quality procedures. In addition, the data product should cite ERS as the source of the tables. An external review of methods is recommended for ERS-generated estimates. Consideration should be given to releasing data in an open data format (e.g., CSV).

Date: Spring 2015

Council members: Mitch Morehart (Chair), Mark Denbaly, John Dyck, Lewrene Glaser, Karen Hamrick, Mary Maher, Utpal Vasavada, and Pheny Weidman

China Agricultural and Economic Data is a collection of agricultural-related data from official statistical publications of the People's Republic of China. There are 250 data items available at the national level, and 45 crop, livestock, agricultural output, and population items available at the provincial level.

Review summary: Although this is a thoughtful and valuable product, there is no evidence that the product has been updated since 2011 or that there is a plan to update. The Council recommends that management evaluate the resource commitment needed to support the data product or archive it so that it remains accessible to users. If management decides to keep the product, some of the key steps would be to update the data regularly, engage key stakeholders and monitor usage, and carry out an external review for communication quality and a review of methods.

The Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System includes three distinct but related data series on food and nutrient availability for consumption. The data serve as popular proxies for food consumption at the national level. Food availability data are the foundation for loss-adjusted food availability and nutrient availability data.

Review summary: The data product is fundamental to understanding U.S. food consumption. In general, the product is well organized, presented, and documented. As a premier ERS data product, the product is held to a high standard of data quality. In most respects, the Council was satisfied with the present system. However, more work is recommended in formal review and in interaction with users. Providing advanced notice of planned releases and methodology changes on the ERS website and explicit guidance for users on update and revision history should all be undertaken. The current effort to provide an open data format should be expedited.

Western Irrigated Agriculture summarizes the farm-structural characteristics for irrigated farms in the 17 Western States based on USDA's 2008 and 1998 Farm and Ranch Irrigation Surveys.

Review summary: The product summarizes data from USDA’s Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey organized by ERS farm size typology. The product makes irrigation information by State and farm-size category available to policymakers, researchers, farmers, and the public. The Council recommends an external review by independent experts of data-product methodology and quality of communication for a broader audience beyond irrigation experts. Advanced notice of the next release and provision of the data in an open-data format should be undertaken.

Date: Fall 2014

Council members: Mitch Morehart (Chair), Mark Denbaly, John Dyck, Lewrene Glaser, Karen Hamrick, Mary Maher, Utpal Vasavada, and Pheny Weidman

Feed Grains Database provides statistics on four feed grains (corn, grain sorghum, barley, and oats), foreign coarse grains (feed grains plus rye, millet, and mixed grains), hay, and related items. This includes data published in the monthly Feed Outlook and previously annual Feed Yearbook.

Review summary: The Feed Grains Database is an important component of USDA’s monitoring of the grain, oilseed, and livestock complex. Menus on the Custom Query page illustrate the breadth of the data provided and give users easy access to data of their choice. The Data Product Review Council recommends the documentation for ERS-generated data series being expanded to include complete and thorough information on methods and accuracy measures. The Council also recommends an external review of methods be conducted, and encourages engaging stakeholders and addressing their needs.

Food Dollar Series measures annual expenditures by U.S. consumers on domestically produced food. The series is comprised of three primary components, each showing different ways to split up the same food dollar: the marketing bill, the industry group, and the primary group.

Review summary: Having recently undergone substantial revision, the Food Dollar Series is an important educational and analytical tool that uses data from other agencies. Its design and user menus are effective in achieving educational and analytical goals. While the Council found that this product met most of the quality standards, improvements could be made by providing advance notice of substantial changes, creating an archive of previous releases, and ensuring complete citation of sources in the data tables.

State Fact Sheets provide information on population, income, poverty, food security, education, employment, organic agriculture, farm characteristics, farm financial indicators, top commodities, and exports. Updated items include 2012 Census of Agriculture data and unemployment for 2013.

Review summary: The State Fact Sheets provide a concise service to a wide variety of users and magnify the effectiveness of the data by making them more visible. While the Council found the product to be at near full compliance with the quality standards, it recommends implementing more pre-dissemination review and building the proposed documentation page. In addition, the data product could benefit from communicating upcoming releases in advance and developing an archive of previous releases.

Date: Spring 2014 (pilot round)

Council members: Mitch Morehart (Chair), Patrick Canning, Mark Denbaly, Lewrene Glaser, Mary Maher, Utpal Vasavada, and Pheny Weidman

Agricultural Productivity in the U.S. provides statistics of total factor productivity (TFP), along with estimates of 10 outputs and 12 inputs in the U.S. farm sector for the 1948-2011 time period.

Review summary: While the Data Product Review Council found that the data product met most of the quality standards, concerns were raised about data product documentation. The Council recommended that there was scope to improve the documentation to meet OMB Open Data Guidelines. The Council’s concern will be properly addressed in a revision of U.S. productivity data product website documentation and exploration of alternative dissemination approaches as will other recommendations coming out of an external expert panel review.

Commodity Costs and Returns provide estimates for 12 major crop and livestock products since 1975. ERS has been the sole source of national-level commodity costs and returns—the only set of estimates that is consistently evaluated across the United States and utilizes a sampling structure ensuring that the estimates are representative of commodity production in the Nation and major production regions.

Review summary: While the Council found that the data product met most of the quality standards, attention to OMB’s new Open Data Guidelines is needed as well as evidence of ongoing research into methods and operations. In addition, the Council suggested finding ways in engaging stakeholders to improve the product’s fitness for use.

Food Security in the United States provides annual estimates of food insecurity for the Nation overall and by selected household characteristics, and for States (three years of data are combined for State estimates). ERS is the preeminent source of U.S. food security estimates. Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

Review summary: The Council found that the product meets all OMB directives and best practices by Federal Principal Statistical Agencies. The Council recommended that OMB’s new Open Data Guidelines be implemented. In addition, the Council suggested finding ways that would make the documentation, the accuracy measures, the revisions and substantial changes, and the archived material more readily accessible on the website.