Stay Connected

Follow ERS on Twitter
Subscribe to RSS feeds
Subscribe to ERS e-Newsletters.aspx
Listen to ERS podcasts
Read ERS blogs at USDA

Update and Revision History

Farm income forecasts are updated three times each year, and historical estimates are revised as needed to reflect newly available administrative and survey data, or when estimation procedures are revised. For information on the administrative and survey data used in the Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, see general documentation as well as documentation on cash receipts, the balance sheet, and financial ratios. This page briefly describes the routine revision process for USDA farm income and balance sheet forecasts, and explains revisions to the historical income and balance sheet estimates when they occur.

Farm Income and Wealth—From Forecast to Estimate across 19 Months

The periodic farm income forecasts and estimates (available in U.S. and State-level farm income and wealth statistics) published by ERS for a particular year (5 over a span of 19 months) can vary markedly from one release to the next due to changes in the information set available to the Farm Income Team. For example, the 2015 forecast (first released in February 2015) has undergone refinement as new information became available, and release dates are timed accordingly. For example, the second 2015 forecast, in August 2015 included preliminary output and yield numbers as collected by NASS from field surveys, and also benefited from production expense data that became available from the 2014 ARMS, and additional input price data. Additional refinements in the November 2015 release incorporate updates including harvest, sales, and inventory data. The fourth and final forecast of 2015 farm income is released in February 2016, and includes additional 2015 monthly price information, as well as a more complete picture of the 2014 crop year’s marketing patterns. The 2015 calendar year forecast process culminates in August 2016 when NASS estimates of State and U.S. production are available and expense data gathered through the 2015 ARMS are available.

The staggered incorporation of additional data that become available throughout the year means that individual components of the farm income accounts adhere to different timetables and are subject to varying degrees of uncertainty. For instance, the forecast of crop inventory adjustment is a residual component of measures of components taken at different points in the year of total supply (production and beginning-of-year stocks) and use (domestic and exports).  Government farm program payments—which are a function of prices, production, eligibility rules, and ad hoc disaster legislation—are also hard to forecast with any certainty, and that uncertainty compounds the margin of error that measures like net cash income are subject to as they progress from first forecast to final estimate.

Periodic Revisions Improve the Accuracy of Historical Estimates

The following details updates and revisions to data (available in U.S. and State-level farm income and wealth statistics) as of May 2, 2016.

May 2, 2016

On May 2, 2016, the Agricultural Resource Management Survey data—the data source underlying the two tables Farm-level average net cash income by farm typology and sales class and Farm business average net cash income by commodity specialization and region—were revised to incorporate data quality improvements for 2012-2016F and to correct a programming error that inadvertently excluded cash sales of hay and sugarcane/sugarbeets from ARMS crop cash income in 2013 and 2014. Correction of the programming error increased the reported average farm-level net cash income by $3,100–$3,500 per farm in each revised year 2013-16F (about 7 percent per year). For farm businesses, the increase in average per-farm net cash income was $6,300-$6,700 (5-6 percent). The farm sector-level forecasts and reports were not affected.

February 9, 2016

Final revision of 2015 forecast, using updated data form NASS and other administrative sources. Estimates from 2008-14 were revised to account for updated NASS data, and revised 2012 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data. The first forecast for the 2016 farm income and balance sheet is issued. Net farm income for 2012 is revised upward by $2.9 billion due to a change in the calculation of the gross imputed rental value of dwellings. The revision affects gross imputed rental value of dwellings and net farm income reported for the U.S. and each State. The revision does not affect the income reported for other years. Also, the 2012 estimates in the two tables Farm-level average net cash income by farm typology and sales class and Farm business average net cash income by commodity specialization and region were revised downward to correct a miscalculation of gross income from production of 'other livestock.' The correction only affects average cash income estimates on these two tables; sector level estimates of cash receipts, net cash farm income and net farm income were not affected. The correction resulted in a downward revision of $4,600 (4.1 percent), to the 2012 estimate of farm business average net cash income. The 2012 average net cash income estimates by region, commodity specialization, sales class and typology were also revised downward, by varying amounts.

November 24, 2015

Revision of 2015 forecast. Data from 2008 forward were revised with more recent data from NASS to account for revisions to sheep and lamb inventory data, more recent citrus and potato data, new commodity monthly marketing percentages data, and revisions to the 2013 and 2014 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data.

In addition, on November 24, 2015, ERS issued an errata to reflect corrections to the source State cash receipts data for the "all other animals and products" and "miscellaneous crops" categories for 2008-12 made by the National Agricultural Statistics Service for California, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Nevada. Changes to these States’ cash receipts estimates are reflected in U.S. total cash receipts estimates for 2008-12, as well as all of the income measures that use cash receipt data as a component (including net farm income, net cash income, value added, and farm-level and farm business average net cash income). The changes added 0.6 to 0.9 percent to U.S. total cash receipts in each of the years from 2008 to 2012.

October 14, 2015

Errata: On October 14, 2015, the report for Annual cash receipts by commodity, U.S. and States, 2008-2015F was reposted. An original version of this report, posted August 25, 2015, did not return inflation-adjusted dollar values when "real" was selected as an option; nominal values continued to be displayed. This option now provides correct values. This was the only report in the set that was affected.

August 25, 2015

Release of 2014 final estimates, 2014 State estimates, and revision of the 2015 forecast. Data from 2008 forward were revised to account for changes in Agriculture Census weights, Census values and a change in estimation and forecast methodology.

February 10, 2015

Release of the 2015 forecast and revision of the 2014 forecast. For 2012-13, insurance premiums and indemnities (including crop insurance premiums and indemnities) are reported as separate income and expense items. Prior to this release, and for all other years, insurance indemnities were included in other farm income and premiums were included in miscellaneous expenses. 

December 12, 2014

Errata: On December 12, 2014, the ERS farm income estimates for 2008-2013 and the 2014 forecast, released on November 26, were revised to correct coding and data input sourcing problems in the underlying farm income database. Revisions also incorporate new data that became available following the November 26 release. While changes to individual State level estimates may be larger, at the U.S. level, these corrections and data revisions increased 2013 net farm income by 2 percent, to $129 billion. Also affected were the value of year-end inventories and related measures in the balance sheet, as well as production expenses, total value of production, gross and net value added, the value of inventory change, and their respective crop components in the income statement. Net farm income forecast for 2014 increased 0.4 percent, to $97.3 billion.

November 25, 2014

Beginning with the release of the 2012 Census of Agriculture in May of 2014, NASS announced the preparation and release of historical revisions to a number of important statistical products that would occur throughout the year. Most of these estimates are used in preparation of the farm sector value added and net income measures produced by ERS (see Documentation to the data product). The reports release included:

The result of incorporating the historical revisions for crop and livestock cash receipts was a relatively small reduction in livestock cash receipts (-0.18 to -1.33 percent) and a similar small percentage increase in crop receipts over the 2008-12 period (0.58 to 5.14 percent). Price and output revisions also resulted in changes for the value of crop and livestock production and estimated inventory changes. As a result, total value of agricultural production was revised downward by between 3-5 percent during 2008-12, with the largest reduction occurring in 2011. Changes to revenues from services and forestry (includes forest products sold, gross imputed rental value of farm dwellings, machine hire and custom work, and other farm related income) were also relatively minor for 2008-11. Forest products sold were the main component that changed, in the range of -3.41 to 1.12 percent. During 2012, all items in this category were updated to census values. There were no revisions to expenses during 2008-11. 

August 26, 2014

Farm sector real estate asset values from 2008 to 2012 were revised in order to incorporate final estimate information from NASS on land values and land in farms. The value of machinery and motor vehicles assets was revised in 2012 to incorporate newly available census of agriculture information. Reflecting these changes, historical farm balance sheet values for farm sector equity (assets minus debt), and the sector debt-to-asset, debt-to equity, and equity-asset ratios were revised for data covering 2008-12.

March 11, 2014

On March 17, 2014, farm debt for 2002-06 in the Farm Sector Balance Sheet Table (located in Farm Income and Wealth Statistics) was revised to correct a programming error. As part of the February 2014 release, debt held by Farmer Mac at the end of each year for 2002-06 was added to the table for the first time, but was not reflected in calculations of total real estate debt or total farm sector debt. As a result, farm sector equity (assets – debt), and the sector debt-to-asset, debt-to equity, and equity-asset ratios were also incorrect from 2002-06. All series were revised to provide correct data.

February 11, 2014

Revisions were made to two data series since the November 2013 release. The amount of real estate debt held by Farmer Mac was previously shown as "not available" for 2002-06. However, as new information and analyst time became available, it was possible to provide these data. Additionally, a rounding error was corrected in the Net Farm Income series for 1950-59.

November 26, 2013

Following the August 2013 farm income and wealth statistics data release, errors were detected in several series. Many of the errors impacted national data, as well as data for each State. This is true for intermediate production expenses and labor expenses (2012), interest expenses (2008-12), real estate interest expenses (1988), nonreal estate interest expense (1971-80), and net rent to landowners (1971-80). Additionally, the value of inventory change for meat animals (2010-11) and real estate taxes excluding operator dwellings (1910-48) were found to include errors affecting only national (not State) data. The November 2013 release included corrected data.

August 27, 2013

Revised farm balance sheet estimates for 2002-11
Following the February 2013 update, a thorough review of the estimation process for USDA’s farm sector balance sheet was undertaken, and several changes were instituted to more accurately reflect farm sector debt. Estimation procedures were amended to improve handling of nonresponse to debt-related questions in the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) and to recognize changes in the lending industry and associated administrative data over time.

Administrative data from all the major agricultural lenders are routinely adjusted using the most recent ARMS to estimate the portion of agricultural debt used for farm purposes. Comprehensive procedures were instituted to impute missing data in ARMS (due to respondent nonresponse) from 2002 to 2011, and these revised data were applied to estimate the share of lender-reported agricultural debt that was used for farm business purposes. Debt attributed to individuals and other lenders who do not routinely report farm lending activities was also re-estimated based on revised ARMS data. Finally, estimation procedures were amended to reflect Farmer Mac’s changing role in the farm debt market and to account for other changes in the availability of administrative data on agricultural lending. The impact of these changes was sizeable in some cases, as shown in the accompanying table.

Revised farm income estimates for 2008-11
The above-mentioned revisions to the farm balance sheet estimates affected estimated interest expenses for farm operations. These changes, in turn, affected estimates of net farm income. Revisions are ongoing, but the August 2013 release incorporates revisions to interest expenses and income estimates for 2008-11.

Last updated: Monday, May 02, 2016

For more information contact: Farm Income Team