Farmers love data. And while big picture items are great, growers tell us they really want and can use local data. In addition to national and state-level statistics, some of our most popular data are the county-level agricultural production information that we collect and publish.
Collecting local data is not an easy task. For example, in Iowa, where I oversee agricultural statistics, to determine 2015 county-level numbers, we surveyed 11,500 farmers in December and January to supplement data from nearly 3,000 Iowa farmers surveyed for the January 12th Crop Production Annual Summary report. These statistical surveys are designed so all farmers in the state have a chance to be selected for participation. In order to publish county data, we need responses from at least 30 producers in each county or yield reports for at least 25 percent of the harvested acreage in a county. Luckily, here in Iowa, we received 50 or more farmer reports for many counties but we still had a couple of counties that did not make the 30 report requirement for publication.
In addition to farmer-reported acreage and yield data, NASS uses aggregated certified acreage data from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), insured acreage data from USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), and the NASS satellite-based acreage data (cropland data layer) to help determine planted and harvested acreage for each county.
The importance of responding to NASS surveys cannot be overstated. The estimates resulting from the surveys do more than just settle arguments about which county had the highest or lowest average yield. Under the 2014 Farm Bill, FSA uses the NASS county yield data to calculate Agriculture Risk Coverage – County (ARC-CO) benchmark revenues and crop year county revenues. If the actual county crop revenue falls below the ARC-CO guaranteed revenue for a given year, an ARC-CO payment is triggered for that crop/county. So, the NASS county yield, along with the crop’s U.S. marketing year average price, are used to help determine payments for this program.
These data also help provide the T-yields farmers use for insurance purposes when actual yields are not available. They also provide the data needed to make the trend-adjusted yield endorsement available which allows producers to increase their insurance coverage. County estimates assist in determining payments for group risk insurance policies and Farm Service Agency county loan rates for the marketing loan program. County data also contribute to administering disaster assistance and conservation programs.
Access the data for any state or county from the NASS Quick Stats database at quickstats.nass.usda.gov.