Agricultural Yield

Agricultural Yield

The Agricultural Yield survey provides farmer reported survey data of expected crop yields used to forecast and estimate crop production levels throughout the growing season.

The survey is conducted in all states except Alaska and Hawaii. Samples of farm operators are selected from the March Crops/Stocks survey (small grains) and the June Crops/Stocks survey (late season crops and tobacco). Farmers reporting acreage of at least one commodity of interest are included in the monthly data collection to forecast crop yields.

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Program Content

Farm operators provide data for small grain crops (winter wheat, durum wheat, other spring wheat, barley, oats), row crops (corn, cotton, dry edible beans, peanuts, rice, soybeans, sorghum, sugarcane), tobacco (burley, air cured, and dark fired), and hay (alfalfa and other hay) being produced on the operation. Hay stocks data are also collected.

Acreage planted, acreage for harvest, and expected yield per acre are collected from each operator for the crop of interest the first month. In following months, the same sample of operators are contacted to update expected yield per acre data. Updating reported information from the same sample of operators each month provides a measure of change resulting from growing conditions.


The Agricultural Yield survey is one component of the estimation process for commodity production estimates. The Crop Production report provides critical information on expected end-of-season commodity supplies each month during the growing season. Farm operators are the greatest benefactor of this data series. The NASS estimates of supply are the official, independent, and unbiased baseline. The price discovery mechanism determines crop prices using credible estimates of supply that reflect the changing conditions during the season. Producers rely on credible estimates of supply to minimize swings in farm gate prices.

Crop production estimates are valuable for producers and industry alike to plan the marketing and movement of the commodity throughout the year. A few examples include development of an individual producer=s marketing plan (local scope), forecasting transportation requirements (state or regional), or evaluating export potential (national and international).


The Agricultural Yield survey is a monthly survey running from May through November. Small grains data are collected from May through August. Row crop data are collected from August through November. Hay yield data are collected in August and October with hays stocks collected in May. Tobacco data are collected from May through November.


The reference date for each monthly survey is the 1st of the month. Data collection for each survey begins no earlier than the 25th of the previous month for mail data collection. Phone data collection begins no earlier than the 28th of the previous month. Data collection concludes about the 5th of each month depending on the release date of the Crop Production report.

Sample sizes range from 5,500 (June) to 27,000 (August). The primary method of data collection is telephone interview. Mail out/mail back data collection is a highly cost effective and less burdensome method. However, the narrow data collection period each month requires a quick response thus reducing the effectiveness of data collection by mail. Personal interview data collection is used on a limited basis when requested by the respondents.

Phone enumerators utilize Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing software which allows the enumerator to verbally maintain a conversation with the respondent while following the instrument flow and question text. Data are entered directly into an electronic format and the software performs simple consistency checks which drastically reduces the need to make follow up contacts to the respondent. The software further reduces respondent burden by using previously reported data files to avoid unnecessarily re-asking questions answered by the respondent in a previous month.

Special Features

NASS and the World Agricultural Outlook Board have jointly produced Understanding USDA Crop Forecasts (Miscellaneous Publication No. 1554, March 1999) which provides additional insight into the crop forecasting program of the USDA.

A NASS report titled The Yield Forecasting Program of NASS provides a more detailed and mathematical discussion of the yield forecasting and estimating program.

Related Programs

Objective Yield

Last Modified: 04/18/2024