Uses and Publications

Table of Contents

Uses of Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) Data

  • Topic pages: The Economic Research Service (ERS) provides current information on U.S. agriculture through topic pages on its website. Pages relying heavily on ARMS data include
  • Data products:
  • Official estimates:
    • Farm finances: ARMS data provide the foundation for official USDA estimates of the income, assets, and debt of the farm sector, farm businesses, and farm households. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), in turn, includes estimates of net farm income in its annual estimates of gross domestic product and personal income and in the development of State and local area personal income estimates.
    • Cost of production: ARMS data are used to fulfill a congressional mandate to report cost-of-production estimates for corn, wheat, cotton, grain sorghum, barley, oats, and dairy. ARMS data are also used to report cost-of-production estimates for other commodities that compete for agricultural resources, including rice, peanuts, soybeans, hogs, and cow-calf.
    • Agricultural productivity: ARMS price and expenditure data are incorporated into USDA estimates of agricultural productivity.
    • Chemical use: to meet the requirements of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 and the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, ARMS collects data on field crop chemical use.
  • Staff analysis: ARMS data are used to respond to informational requests from non-profit groups and government stakeholders such as other USDA agencies, Congress, and the White House. Examples of such requests include:
    • Calculating farm energy cost-to-output ratios
    • Highlighting the distribution of farm income, household income, and potential problems servicing debt
    • Explaining the distribution of farm program payments, and
    • Identifying the characteristics of producers purchasing crop insurance.
  • Program administration: ARMS data aid the administration of government programs.
    • ARMS data provide the basis for weights to calculate the Prices Paid by Farmers Index, used to calculate parity prices required by the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act. Parity prices help regulate some 45 fruit, vegetable, and nut Federal marketing orders.
    • The Agricultural Marketing Service uses ARMS data to derive estimates of the cost of milk production.
    • The Risk Management Agency uses tabulations of ARMS to understand what risk management tools are most commonly used by farmers.
    • The Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Services have used ARMS data to plan its programs regarding pest management strategies.
  • Publications/research: ERS uses ARMS data for research and publications on variety of topics, including farm management, technology adoption, resource use, and farm household well-being. See the next section for examples.

Selected Recent ERS Publications Using ARMS

  • America’s Farms and Ranches at a Glance: 2023 Edition (EIB-263, December 2023)
    American farms represent a diverse set of business operations and farm operators. This annual report describes characteristics of U.S. farms and ranches with the most recent data from the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), an annual survey conducted by USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). Statistics are presented using a farm classification developed by USDA, ERS to categorize farms into groups with some common characteristics. The classifications used are mainly based on each farm’s annual revenue, the main occupation of the farm’s principal operator, and ownership (family versus non-family). Additionally, the report explores the differences in farm operations in 2022 by race and ethnicity of the operators.
  • Examining Financial Risk Measures on Family and Nonfamily Farms (Amber Waves, June 2023)
    The Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) provides data on two measures of financial performance: the operating profit margin (the share of gross income that is profit) and the current ratio (the ratio of short-term assets to short-term debt). Researchers use these data to gain a sense of risk faced by different types of farms.
  • Access to Farmland by Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers: Issues and Opportunities (AP-096, December 2022)
    This report is in response to Section 12607 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill), wherein the U.S. Congress tasked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with analyzing the barriers preventing or hindering the ability of beginning and socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmers and ranchers to acquire or access farmland, and what USDA is doing to address these concerns. The authors examined the geographic distribution of beginning and socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmers and ranchers across counties in the United States. The county share of farm operations that identifies as beginning or socially disadvantaged is used as a measure of the ease or difficulty of establishing or expanding farm enterprises for these groups.
  • America’s Farms and Ranches at a Glance: 2022 Edition (EIB-247, December 2022)
    This report uses a farm classification, or typology, developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) to categorize farms into more homogeneous groupings to better understand conditions across the Nation’s diverse farm sector. This edition reports the distribution of farm and non-farm pandemic assistance farms received in 2021 and enhances coverage of farm financial stress by including information on short-term debts and fungible assets. Also reported are farm input purchase strategies, adoption of agritourism, and the percentage of farm household members with healthcare coverage.
  • Rotational Grazing Adoption by Cow-Calf Operations (EIB-243, November 2022)
    Rotational grazing is a management practice in which livestock are cycled through multiple fenced grazing areas (paddocks) to manage forage production, forage quality, and environmental quality. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other organizations promote rotational grazing as an important practice for providing improved environmental outcomes, relative to conventional grazing, in which livestock are not rotated between grazing areas. Despite the breadth of support for rotational grazing, only limited information is available on its prevalence and the variation in how producers implement the practice. This report provides details on how frequently or "intensively" grazing operations rotate livestock between paddocks, key system characteristics such as average paddock size, and how outcomes such as stocking density and cost relate to system characteristics.
  • U.S. Hog Production: Rising Output and Changing Trends in Productivity Growth (ERR-308, August 2022)
    The hog sector began a major transformation in the early 1990s, and since then, it has experienced productivity growth and structural change, increased output, and expanded exports. This study examined changes in hog production from 1992 to 2017. During this period, production contracts became the most common business model in hog production, and hog farms grew larger and more specialized. Technological advancements improved productivity, though changes in production costs were mixed.
  • Farmers Report Soil-Related Resource Concerns on About Half of Soybean, Wheat, Cotton, and Oat Fields (Amber Waves, May 2022)
    A recent USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) study considered how many farmers who reported having resource concerns on fields in several commodities also received technical assistance in addressing the concerns. The study analyzed data collected from USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) for fields growing oats and cotton in 2015, wheat (including winter, spring, and durum) in 2017, and soybeans in 2018. The analysis focused on seven resource concerns primarily related to soil and water on cropland: water-driven erosion, wind-driven erosion, soil compaction, poor drainage, low organic matter, within-field water quality concerns, and "other" concerns. These roughly correspond with 31 specific soil and water resource concerns identified by NRCS, among a total of 47 specific concerns, that form the basis of conservation planning.
  • Increasing the Value of Animal Manure for Farmers (AP-109, March 2023)
    This study describes current manure production, handling, storage, and use utilizing data from the USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). In addition, the report describes existing and emerging technologies that have the potential to increase the value of manure or reduce manure management costs.
  • U.S. Dairy Productivity Increased Faster in Large Farms and Across Southwestern States (Amber Waves, March 2022)
    Research from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) measured productivity in the U.S. dairy sector using data from the Agricultural Resource and Management Survey (ARMS) that is conducted jointly by ERS and USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. The study tracked the growth of milk output over time while controlling for factors such as herd size, feed, capital, intermediate materials and services (such as veterinary work, electricity, fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides), and environmental factors such as rainfall and temperature.
  • Farm Labor, Human Capital, and Agricultural Productivity in the United States (ERR-302, February 2022)
    This report discusses the contribution of farm labor to U.S. agricultural growth and assesses the changing composition of the U.S. farm labor force with special attention to the changes in educational attainment among farm operators and other workers.
  • America's Diverse Family Farms: 2021 Edition (EIB-231, December 2021)
    This report provides the latest statistics on U.S. farms, including production, financial performance, pandemic assistance, and farm household characteristics by farm size. New sections of this edition explore changes in direct sales, pandemic-related off-farm job loss and furloughs, farm operating expenses, and the distribution of USDA and non-USDA pandemic assistance received in 2020.
  • Agricultural Income and Finance Situation and Outlook: 2021 Edition (EIB-228, November 2021)
    The agricultural economy experienced pronounced volatility over 2009–19, including strong periods of expansions in the first part of the decade followed by several years of contraction. This report presents and assesses recent trends in three major areas of farm finance: farm income, Government payment programs, and Chapter 12 bankruptcy eligibility and rates.
  • The Effect on Family Farms of Changing Capital Gains Taxation at Death (EB-31, September 2021)
    ERS researchers present a framework for evaluating the effects of changes in capital gains taxation on inherited assets. This report provides an analysis of potential impacts on family farm estates’ capital gains tax liability under the proposed American Families Plan (AFP).
  • Trends in Production Practices and Costs of the U.S. Corn Sector (ERR-294, July 2021)
    Corn for grain is a major field crop in the United States, with wide-ranging uses including animal feed, ethanol, food, beverages, industrial products, and exports. This report describes the technological and structural changes in U.S. corn production over 1996-2018, and describes how these changes have affected farm expenditures, net returns, productivity, yields, and production costs.
  • Absent Landlords in Agriculture – A Statistical Analysis (ERR-281, March 2021)
    The majority of rented farmland is owned by landlords who do not operate farms, and a subset of these landlords, known as absent landlords, do not reside in the local farming area. This report explores associations between landlord absenteeism and measures of long-term economic and agricultural health.
  • Cover Crop Trends, Programs, and Practices in the United States (EIB-222, February 2021)
    On U.S. cropland, the use of cover crops increased by 50 percent between 2012 and 2017. Over this same period, Federal and State conservation programs have increased efforts to promote cover crops through financial and technical assistance. Based on a series of farm- and field-level surveys, this report details how cover crops are managed on corn, cotton, soybean, and wheat fields.
  • Farm Use of Futures, Options, and Marketing Contracts (EIB-219, October 2020)
    This study uses data from the 2016 Agricultural Resource Management Survey to describe producers' use of futures, options, and marketing contracts as risk management strategies, with a primary focus on corn and soybeans.
  • Consolidation in U.S. Dairy Farming (ERR-274, July 2020)
    The number of licensed U.S. dairy herds fell by more than half between 2002 and 2019, with an accelerating rate of decline in 2018 and 2019, even as milk production continued to grow. Production has been shifting to much larger but fewer farms, and that shift shows no sign of slowing. Larger operations realize lower costs of production, on average, and those advantages persist.
  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2019 (EIB-208, May 2019)
    Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2019, describes trends in economic, structural, resource, and environmental indicators in the agriculture sector. The indicators covered in this report provide assessments of important changes in U.S. agriculture—industry development; environmental effects; and implications for economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

NASS Summary Tables and Charts

Other Material Highlighting ARMS

  • ARMS Uses Slide Show
    James MacDonald of ERS explains financial reports, policy relevant reports, and custom reports and how the ARMS data support them.
  • Farmland Ownership and Tenure Highlights
    To learn more about the rented land and who owns it, the 2014 Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey was conducted as a special study through the Census of Agriculture program to collect data from landowners and landlords of agricultural land in coordination with ARMS.
  • 2013 Rice Highlights
    In 2013, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and ERS conducted the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) of the U.S. rice industry. During the Fall of 2013 and the Winter of 2014, trained enumerators conducted personal interviews with more than 1,000 rice growers in the 10 largest rice producing states. This publication includes highlights of their production practices, resource use, and finances in 2013. Earlier ARMS rice surveys covered outcomes during 2000 and 2006, and this publication compares recent results to those from earlier years.
  • 2013 Peanut Highlights
    During the Fall of 2013 and the Winter of 2014, trained enumerators conducted personal interviews with more than 900 peanut growers in the largest peanut producing states. This publication includes highlights of their production practices, resource use, and finances in 2013. Earlier ARMS peanut surveys covered outcomes from 2004, and this publication compares recent results to those from earlier years.
  • 2012 Soybean Highlights
    During the summer and fall of 2012 and winter of 2013, trained enumerators conducted personal interviews with almost 2,500 soybean growers in the 19 largest soybean-producing States. The farmers provided information about their production practices, operating costs, and soybean production. This publication, one of the first that uses the new soybean data, includes highlights of production practices and resource use. You can also download a PDF version of the soybean highlights.
  • 2011 Broiler Highlights
    During the first three months of 2012, trained enumerators conducted personal interviews with more than 2,000 broiler growers in the 17 largest broiler-producing states. The farmers provided information about their operating costs and farm-related income. Broiler producers were also asked about feed, housing, and sales during 2011. The following results are highlights of production practices and resource use. ARMS results indicate that U.S. broiler production is shifting toward larger birds. You can also download a PDF version of the broiler highlights.