The County Agricultural Production Survey (CAPS) provides data needed to estimate acreage and production of selected crops and inventory of major livestock species at the county level for state and federal programs. Data are also collected to update commodity information on the NASS list frame for sampling purposes.
The CAPS is conducted in 44 states. All counties in these states must be represented in the sample. The commodities covered by the survey are specific to each state. A federal county estimates program is jointly defined by NASS, USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA), and USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). Individual states will add commodities to the program to cover special needs of local cooperators.
Federal county estimates for small grains are released in mid-February. Federal row crop estimates are published from early March through late June. Livestock county estimates are released from mid-May through August. State program county estimates are published by each state according to individual state release schedules.
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The list of commodities is fairly exhaustive in most states. Operators are asked to provide information for their entire farm. For field crops and vegetables, farmers are asked for planted acres, area harvested for grain and silage, and quantity harvested. For fruit, number of trees or vines and quantity harvested are asked. For livestock, total inventory and numbers by subclasses, such as beef cows, dairy cows, and calves, are obtained.
The RMA uses county estimate data to determine when crop loss insurance payments are to made to farmers. They also use the data directly and indirectly in their actuarial process. The FSA uses the estimates in their formulas for posted county prices and disaster assistance programs. Other government agencies, universities, and research organizations use county estimate data to determine many production and economic values on a small area basis. County estimates are the only source of yearly localized estimates.
The CAPS is conducted annually at the end of the harvest season. Some states conduct two surveys, one in late summer for the early harvested crops (small grains) and another in late fall for row crops, hay, and livestock. Most states conduct only one late fall survey.
The target population is all farms and ranches in each state. Operations in other acreage and livestock surveys are excused from the CAPS, however their responses to these other surveys are merged into the county summaries. Special sampling considerations are employed to ensure all counties and rarer commodities are adequately represented. Also, farms that have not responded to a survey for several years may be added to the sample for the purpose of refreshing sampling information.
Each state develops its own data collection strategy. Most states conduct a mail survey with second mailings or a telephone follow up to ensure adequate coverage for each county. Response targets are set for each county and the follow up strategy is defined accordingly. The number of reports returned is monitored and a nonresponse follow up strategy is mapped out to achieve response targets.
Summaries compute the measures needed to allocate previously released state totals to regions and counties. State estimates for commodities are made from acreage and livestock surveys conducted under more rigid controls. The CAPS is designed to increase the usable sample size to a level adequate for county level estimation.
Sheep and Goat Inventory
Census of Agriculture
Last modified: 12/01/09
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