Crop farmers face huge volatility in corn and soybean prices. Input costs for seed and fertilizer are rising. Farmers face stiff competition from other farmers to rent land. Land prices are climbing, up 16% on average in 2010 according to a recently released Iowa State University survey. Investors are driving some of that gain as they buy land to get in on the ag commodity boom.
Both the U.S. cow herd and calf crop are shrinking. Beef supplies are tightening. USDA's Economic Research Service projects cash fed cattle could average $100 per cwt. for the first time ever this year.
Pork producers suffered sizable losses in 2008 and 2009. Higher-than-earlier projected spring and summer hog prices in 2010 helped pork producers heal financially. That was before 2010's unexpected crop shortfall triggered another feed cost surge. Now pork and dairy producers are finding themselves in a seemingly ever-tightening cost-price squeeze.
Conditions spell huge uncertainty for crop, livestock producers
Current conditions spell huge uncertainty for crop as well as livestock producers. National, state and local policymakers need a good handhold on U.S. agriculture's current financial condition. That is what USDA's annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) is designed to provide.
USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service is currently conducting the ARMS survey. It is the primary source of information on production practices, resource use and the economic well-being of America's farm operations. It gives farmers and ranchers an opportunity to provide accurate, real-world data that will help shape the policies, programs and issues that affect them.
"ARMS asks a small, but representative, sample of farmers about their operations in order to understand the current financial state of U.S. agriculture," says Greg Thessen, director of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service Iowa field office in Des Moines. "Participation by farmers in our ARMS survey is crucial because just about every federal policy and program that affects our nation's farmers, their families and their communities is based on information we gather from the ARMS survey."
Your confidentiality is protected, you are urged to participate
In an effort to obtain the most accurate data possible, NASS will contact about 35,000 producers nationwide, including nearly 2,000 in Iowa. NASS will ask those farmers for general financial data.
Each year the survey targets selected commodities on a rotating basis to collect cost of production data. This year, NASS will collect detailed information on production practices from corn growers and dairy producers.
Protecting the confidentiality of the farmers who participate in this survey is critical, says Thessen. "As with all of our NASS surveys, the information that the respondents provide to us is confidential by law," he emphasizes. "NASS safeguards the confidentiality of all responses. No individual respondent or farming operation can be identified.
This survey gives farmers a chance to set the record straight
"ARMS gives farmers a chance to set the record straight about issues that affect them," he explains. "Farm and producer organizations, members of Congress, USDA, other government agencies and state and local officials use the collective results of our survey to answer questions and make important decisions concerning the economic viability of American agriculture, the rural economy and other emerging issues and concerns that will impact farmers."
The ARMS survey is one way USDA and producers work together to provide meaningful, accurate and objective statistical information to help monitor the financial health of U.S. agriculture and rural communities.
NASS plans to contact Iowa farmers for the ARMS survey between January 29 and March 31. NASS will publish summaries of the economic data gathered in the annual Farm Production Expenditures report on Aug. 2, 2011. All NASS reports are available online at www.nass.usda.gov.
Summing up, Thessen notes that USDA will survey a sample of farmers, gathering their opinion on farm financial conditions. Policymakers will use the survey results to help them formulate policies that will impact the future of rural America. Federal law requires NASS to keep all individual responses from farmers surveyed confidential.