dairy cows eating

USDA to measure financial well-being of the dairy sector

NASS will visit dairy farms in January to gather extra information on conventional and organic dairy sector.

Beginning in January, representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will visit dairy farms across the nation as the agency begins collecting data for the final phase of the 2016 "Agricultural Resource Management Survey" (ARMS).

ARMS is a joint effort between NASS and USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). The survey is an annual program that gathers in-depth information on the production practices, costs and financial well-being of American farm families. ARMS targets select commodities on a rotational basis. This year, the survey places additional focus on corn and the conventional and organic dairy sectors. The last time ARMS focused on the dairy sector was in 2010, and that was only on the conventional dairy sector. This will be the first time ARMS includes an additional focus on organic dairy production.

“The structure of dairy farming in the United States has changed dramatically over the last two decades, making these economic data more crucial than ever before,” NASS Census & Survey Division director Barbara Rater said. “The 2016 ARMS will help determine how recent policy changes have affected American dairy farms.”

The results of the 2016 ARMS will help USDA and other policy-makers analyze the impacts of the new Dairy Margin Protection Program, introduced in the Agricultural Act of 2014. With operational costs driving structural changes within the dairy industry, this new program aims to help dairy producers when milk prices drop but feed prices remain high. USDA launched the program in 2015, making the current survey crucial to measuring its initial effects.

All dairy farmers selected to participate in the 2016 ARMS will be notified by a mailed postcard. After that, trained enumerators will make appointments and visit the participating farms to gather the information through personal interviews. These visits will begin in late January and will continue through early April.

Once all the data are in, NASS and ERS will review and analyze the data. NASS plans to publish its summarized data in the "Farm Production Expenditures" report on Aug. 3, 2017. ERS plans to put out a report focusing on the ARMS dairy data in late 2017.

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