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 2020, the most recent survey year, the total number of farm and family farm records used to calculate farm household statistics was 11,841 and 11,156, respectively. Both farm and family farm records are down from recent highs of 20,987 and 20,189 in 2017.

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 in-person follow-up or over the phone. Second, the all-mail "core" version of ARMS Phase III, 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 total number of farm and farm household records is the lowest since 2002, however, the coefficient of variation (which measures the size of the standard error relative to the mean) is consistent with previous years. The coefficient of variation for total household income has ranged from a low of 1.9 in 2010 to as high as 5.6 in 2019; the variation in mean off-farm income moved similarly, at 1.6 in 2010 and 6.8 in 2019. The coefficient of variation of the farm income component of household income was generally higher, with a low of 3.8 in 2014 and a high of 26.6 in 2002, consistent with greater riskiness and variation overall in farm sector income. See more statistics on the ARMS from recent years

See more documentation for the Agricultural Resource Management Survey.