Background

Data on farm household income and characteristics come from USDA’s annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). Changes in survey methodology, sampling, or response rates can influence estimates derived from survey data. In 2016, the most recent survey year, the number of family farm records used to calculate farm household statistics was 17,729 farms, down from 19,081 in 2015 but up from 16,607 in 2013. Over the past 8 years, the highest response rates (67.4 and 67.9 percent) were in 2012 and 2014, the years that the Census of Agriculture and TOTAL Survey were conducted.

Changes Between 2012 and Earlier Years

Beginning in 2012, two major changes affected how ARMS data are collected. First, ARMS was an all-mail survey in 2012-14, though most surveys were eventually completed through follow-up in person or over the phone. Currently, most surveys are mailed to respondents, though surveys to large farms or targeting certain commodities may be conducted in person. The number of records enumerated through the mail has ranged from 14.2 percent in 2011 to 42.6 percent in 2012, averaging 32 percent over the past 6 years. Second, the all-mail "core" version of ARMS Phase III, which had been introduced in 2003, was discontinued. Together, these survey design changes make farm household statistics from 2012 onward difficult to compare with earlier surveys. These changes can also affect the precision of estimates. The coefficient of variation (which measures the size of the standard error relative to the mean) for total household income and its off-farm income component was larger in 2012 and later relative to 2010 and 2011. For the farm income component of household income, the coefficient of variation was lower. See more statistics on the ARMS from recent years

See more documentation for the Agricultural Resource Management Survey.