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ERS GIS Map Services and API User Guide

All of the ERS mapping applications, such as the Food Environment Atlas and the Food Access Research Atlas, use map services developed and hosted by ERS as the source for their map content. These map services are open and freely available for use outside of the ERS map applications. Developers can include ERS maps in applications through the use of the map service REST API, and desktop GIS users can use the maps by connecting to the map server directly. 

General Map Service Documentation

Over 30 ERS map services have been created, each containing anywhere from 4 to 70 map layers. The majority of the services consist of national maps displaying data at the county-level. The Food Access Research Atlas service is Census-tract based. A good way to discover and browse the available services and maps is to use the ERS map applications themselves. The Food Environment Atlas, The Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America, The Farm Program Atlas, and the SNAP Data System all use a similar data organization scheme of “Categories” and “Maps.” Each category in the application corresponds to a map service; each map is a layer in that map service. The Food Access Research Atlas is the exception to this scheme as it uses only a single ERS map service, plus an ESRI-hosted background map.

The ARC GIS REST Services Directory lists all available map services. 

Summary of ERS map services and where they are used
Map serviceDescription, type of contentWhere used
Generic landmass/water body used for map backgrounds All ERS map atlases except the Food Access Research Atlas
fa_access fa_assistance fa_health fa_insecurity fa_local fa_prices_taxes fa_restaurants fa_socioeconomic fa_stores Access and proximity to grocery stores
Food and nutrition assistance
Health and physical activity
Food insecurity
Local foods
Food prices and taxes
Restaurant availability and expenditures
Socioeconomic characteristics
Grocery store availability
The Food Environment Atlas
Foodaccess Food access measures used in the Food Access Research Atlas The Food Access Research Atlas
fsn_acre fsn_ci fsn_crp fsn_crssprg fsn_dcp fsn_milc fsn_mlb fsn_sure Average Crop Revenue Election Program
Crop Insurance Program
Conservation Reserve Program
Cross program comparisons
Direct and Countercyclical Program
Milk Income Loss Contract
Marketing Assistance Loan Program
Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program
The Farm Program Atlas
ra_cntyclass ra_filter ra_income ra_jobs ra_people ra_veterans ra_query County classifications
Used to mask metro/nonmetro counties
All Rural Atlas map variables
Atlas of Rural and Small Town America
snap_benefits snap_participation_poverty snap_participation SNAP benefits
SNAP participation per person in poverty
SNAP participation
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Data System
Reference2 reference_WM State and county boundaries and labels
Web Mercator version
All ERS map atlases

NASS 2012 Ag Census Map Services

In partnership with NASS, ERS developed the 2012 Ag Census Maps application, and is also hosting the map services for that application. Documentation for those map services is here.

Desktop User Instructions

To use the ERS map services in a desktop application, such as ArcMap or ArcGIS Online:

  • Browse the service description and REST directory to determine which services and maps meet your needs, and
  • Follow the instructions here to add the maps to your document. Use ‘’ as the server specification.

Developer API Instructions

The services can be accessed through ArcGIS Server REST API. JSON and SOAP interfaces are also available. See the detailed documentation, including general usage instructions, service properties, and methods.

Last updated: Tuesday, July 12, 2016

For more information contact: David Nulph