What Is ARMS?
The annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) is
USDA's primary source of information on the financial condition,
production practices, and resource use of America's farm businesses
and the economic well-being of America's farm households. ARMS data
are essential to USDA, congressional, administration, and industry
decision makers when weighing alternative policies and programs
that touch the farm sector or affect farm families.
Sponsored jointly by ERS and the National Agricultural
Statistics Service (NASS), ARMS is the only national survey that
provides observations of field-level farm practices, the economics
of the farm businesses operating the field (or dairy herd, green
house, nursery, poultry house, etc.), and the characteristics of
farm operators and their households (age, education, occupation,
farm and off-farm work, types of employment, family living
expenses, etc.)--all collected in a representative sample. In
short, ARMS is the mirror in which American farming views
ARMS data underpin USDA's annual estimates of net farm income,
subsequently provided to the Bureau of Economic Analysis for
development of annual estimates of gross domestic product and
personal income. The ARMS survey fulfills a congressional mandate
that USDA provide annual cost-of-production estimates for
commodities covered under farm-support legislation. ARMS also
provides data regarding chemical use on field crops required under
environmental and food safety legislation.
A flexible data collection tool with several phases, versions,
and uses, ARMS is used to:
- Gather information about the relationships among agricultural
production, resources, and the environment
- Determine the costs to produce various crop and livestock
commodities, and the relative importance of various production
- Help determine farmers'/ranchers' net farm income and provide
data on the financial situation of farm/ranch businesses, including
- Help determine the characteristics and financial situations of
farm/ranch operators and their households, including information on
management strategies and off-farm income
Want More Details?
Documentation for more about how the survey is conducted
(survey design, process and procedures, including statistical
methods for estimation), ARMS topics/research areas, and the survey
instruments/questionnaires administered for each crop, year, phase,
How ARMS Is Used
ARMS data are used in USDA and other government agencies in
developing agricultural statistics.
ARMS data enable ERS to publish annual estimates of average
income for U.S. farm operator households. Annual cost-of-production
estimates for over 15 agricultural commodities are also produced
from ARMS data and are used in analyzing farm commodity prices. In
preparing the Annual Report on Family Farms, required by the Food
and Agriculture Act of 1977, ERS draws on ARMS data for information
on a host of relationships, including:
- Farm participation in agricultural programs, and the
distribution of farm program payments
- Structure and organization of farms, including family and
- Use of new production technologies and other management
- Farm use of credit
- Farmers' participation in off-farm employment
- Identifying the characteristics of producers purchasing crop
To meet the requirements of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation,
and Trade Act of 1990 and the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996,
NASS uses ARMS to collect data on field crop chemical use and
publishes those data annually in its Agricultural Chemical Usage
Field Crops Summary. ARMS data are also the source for NASS's Farm
Production Expenditures, an annual summary of U.S. and regional
farm production expenditures.
ARMS production input data provide annual weights for NASS's
computation of 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 indices are also required by the 1978
Public Range Improvement Act to calculate annual Federal grazing
fees on the Nation's western public lands by the Bureau of Land
Management and the Forest Service. Milk marketing boards also
depend on the price indices and expenditure data, which are also
used in USDA's measures of farm productivity.
Research and Analysis
In addition to research that depends primarily on ARMS data,
ARMS contributes to other research and analysis work because it
provides the basic cost-of-production and supply response
information on which other analyses depend.
The ARMS survey is the only source of national data to support
research on farmers' decisions to adopt new technologies and to
relate those decisions to the economic performance and structural
attributes of farms and farm families. Technology adoption
decisions being tracked in the ARMS survey include:
- Choice of bio-engineered seed
- Selection of waste management practices by livestock
- Use of chemical and biological pest management
- Use of information management technologies
- Use of precision technologies in crop production
Questions about ARMS
- Can I get the survey questionnaires and
- What types of things can I accomplish with this
- What crops were surveyed when?
- How do you define family farms?
- How do you define farm typology?
- How do you define the regions?
- How do I obtain special tabulations of ARMS
- How can I get direct access to the raw ARMS
Q #1: Can I get the survey
questionnaires and manuals?
A. Yes, you can download the survey questionnaires and
manuals in Acrobat PDF format for all the surveys.
Q #2: What types of things can I
accomplish with this application?
A. The database query tools provide custom delivery and
analysis. The "Tailored Reports" option enables custom queries,
where users can select among survey data sets to build custom
reports, refine queries with specific samples/populations, group
summary statistics for comparisons, and choose among output options
for results (tables, charts, etc).
Q #3: What crops were surveyed when? I
need to know how best to use the pick lists and get the data I
A. Not all surveys cover all crops; check the Documentation
section for each major topic to review a survey's scope,
coverage, and methodology.
Q #4: How do you define family
A. Starting in 2005, "family farm" is defined as any farm where
the majority of the business is owned by the operator and
individuals related to the operator by blood, marriage, or
adoption. Under the previous definition, family farms were farms
organized as sole proprietorships, legal partnerships, or family
corporations. The previous definition also excluded any business
operated by a hired manager. The current definition recognizes that
hired managers may have an ownership interest in the business. See
a more detailed
definition of family farms.
Q #5: How do you define farm
A. ERS has developed a classification known as a farm typology,
which categorizes U.S. farms into seven mutually exclusive and
homogeneous groups within three broad categories, what we refer to
as the collapsed farm typology (below). You'll note that the farm
typology includes nonfamily farms, but focuses on family farms.
- Small family farms (retirement, residential/lifestyle, farming
occupation/low sales, and farming occupation/high sales farms)
- Other family farms (large and very large family farms)
- Nonfamily farms
This represents a change from previous releases as we no longer
include "limited-resource farms" as a category. Limited resource
farms can also be classified as either retirement,
residential/lifestyle, or farming occupation/low sales farms, but
the definition of limited-resource was the priority classification
criterion. We continue to identify limited-resource farms in our
data file to allow continued analysis of these farms. Get more details on the
Q #6: How do you define the
To overcome some longstanding problems with the older USDA Farm
Production Regions, ERS constructed a new set of regions, called Resource Regions (see map), depicting
geographic specialization in the production of U.S. farm
commodities and other characteristics. These are: Basin and Range,
Eastern Uplands, Fruitful Rim, Heartland, Mississippi Portal,
Northern Crescent, Northern Great Plains, Prairie Gateway, and
Q #7: How do I obtain special
tabulations of ARMS data?
A: Users of ERS data may need special tabulations of ARMS data
to supplement or extend published tabulations and reports. Some may
require the knowledge and expertise of agency staff in preparing
Get the details...
Q #8: How can I get direct access to
the raw ARMS data?
A: ARMS data can be made available to researchers and other
government agencies who have collaborative projects with ERS or
NASS that contribute to USDA's public sector. These projects must
be formally administered through a cooperative research
relationship with ERS and NASS.
Get the details...