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United States Department of Agriculture
National Agricultural Statistics Service

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  The Estimating Programs

Prices, Costs, and Returns

Each month, NASS estimates the prices farmers receive for certain agricultural commodities. The estimates reflect sales of all classes and grades of each commodity and are used to compute cash receipts and value of production. Those who administer Federal farm programs use the series to determine grain price deficiency payments and establish grain loan levels.

Prices paid for production inputs (fuel, electricity, seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, and so forth) are collected quarterly from merchants and dealers selling to farmers and ranchers. The data are used to determine the index of prices paid, an indicator of changes in production costs caused by fluctuations in prices.

Index, price, and expenditure data provide the core of information used to determine farm income, costs of production, and the general economic vigor of U.S. agriculture. The series plays a critical role in the decisions and actions of agricultural policy makers in the public and private sectors.

The Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) reflects the overall condition of the U.S. agricultural economy, and Congress and other government officials rely on its results when making policy decisions. This integrated, multiple frame survey is conducted each year to obtain detailed information about production expenses and practices, farm income, finances, costs of production, and other characteristics of farms and ranches throughout the Nation. NASS shifts the focus of the survey from one year to the next to collect extensive cost-of-production data for specific types of enterprises; the survey will concentrate on corn or wheat one year, and on beef or broilers the next.

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Last modified: 06/17/09

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