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Apr 27 -- The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) invites comments to OMB by May 31, 2023 regarding Agricultural Resource Management Phases 1 & 2 and Chemical Use Surveys. [Comments due 30 days after submission on May 1, 2023.]

The Agricultural Resource Management Surveys (ARMS), are the primary source of information for the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a broad range of issues related to agricultural resource use, cost of production, and farm sector financial conditions. This information collection request will focus on the Agricultural Resource Management Phases 1 and 2 as well as Chemical Use Surveys.

ARMS is the only annual source of whole farm information available for objective evaluation of many critical issues related to agriculture and the rural economy. This issues that will be addressed in this request are: input usage, production practices, and chemical use. Without these data, decision makers cannot analyze and report on critical issues that affect farms and farm households when pesticide regulatory actions are being considered. Number of Respondents: 114,083
 
This docket is being submitted to renew the authority to conduct the following survey programs for a three-year period: Agricultural Resources Management Survey (ARMS) Phase 1/Integrated Screening Survey (ISS), ARMS Phase 2 conducting field crop production practice and chemical use,  the Vegetable Chemical Use, as well as the Fruit Chemical Use.
 
ARMS Phase 1/ISS is used as a screening phase for the other surveys. This has proved to be very cost-effective way to draw accurate samples for the other surveys included in this docket. It also helps to reduce respondent burden.

The ARMS Phase 2 Chemical Use Survey is normally conducted every year and it consists of two versions; the Production Practices and Costs Report (PPCR), and the Production Practices Report (PPR).  The PPR component is conducted with NASS-only funding to gather field crop chemical use data. The PPCR is co-funded by a cooperative agreement with the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS). The PPCR component efficiently collects costs associated with the various production practices to complete the cost of production estimates for ARMS targeted crop commodities. The ARMS Phase 2-PPCR efficiently collects detailed cropping practice and cost data by focusing on field-level and expanding to whole farm, thus greatly reducing respondent burden while maintaining accuracy of reported data. NASS will continue to reuse these data enabling NASS to produce some chemical use estimates at appropriate geographic level(s) based on extent of coverage.   

The Fruit and Vegetable Chemical Use Surveys are conducted on a rotational basis.  Projected funding for the next three years has allowed for the reinstatement of the annual rotation.  

Agricultural Resource Management Surveys.  Farm organizations, banks, commodity groups, agribusinesses, Congress, and the USDA use information from ARMS to evaluate the financial performance of farm and ranch businesses and households and to make policy decisions affecting agriculture.  The ARMS provides a robust database of information to address varied needs of policy makers. . . .  

The ARMS surveys are critical for measuring the annual changes to the American farmer.  With the increase in bioenergy dependency, farmers are changing their farming practices to accommodate the increased demand for crops that can be converted into ethanol or biodiesel. This is causing some farmers to change from growing crops for food and feed grains to crops that could produce a larger quantity of biofuels than traditional crops.         

Data collected about agricultural fertilizer and pesticide use for major field crops (corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, potatoes, etc.) and selected fruits and vegetables have been used in building a database for the USDA Pesticide Data Program (PDP), used by USDA to evaluate the safety of the Nation’s food supply. . . .

To guide policy makers in the decision-making process, it is necessary to have reliable information about production practices used and the relationship of the practices to changes in water quality and changes in the rate of erosion.  Decisions affecting agricultural policy and producers will be made with or without data; it is much better to have factual information to guide the decision process.  Farm production covers a major share of the natural resources of the country and, as policy about how to manage production is formed; a better understanding of the production process can prevent uninformed choices.  The agricultural community is currently faced with many complex issues concerning the environment, such as the transport of nutrients and pesticides to ground or surface water sources, soil erosion, and the impact of environmental policies on agricultural production. ARMS data are useful in addressing these concerns; for example, fertilizer and pesticide data that are used to study water quality and production practices, crop rotation data to help identify tillage systems and crop residue levels affecting soil erosion.

The ARMS and Chemical Use survey data are combined to measure changes made within the farming community to help determine if the changes were economically sound.  With the development of new hybrid seeds, farmers are able to use different types of pesticides that are more cost effective and less harmful to the environment. The ARMS and Chemical Use surveys can be used to help document these changes.

The ARMS gathers information about relationships among agricultural production, resources, and the environment. ARMS data provides the necessary background information to support evaluations of these relationships. The data are used to understand the relevant factors in producing high quality food and fiber products while maintaining the long-term viability of the natural resource base.

The ARMS determines what it costs to produce various crop and livestock commodities and the relative importance of various production expense items.  The ARMS Phase 2 Production Practices and Costs Report efficiently collects detailed cropping practice and cost data by focusing on field-level and expanding to whole farm, thus greatly reducing respondent burden while maintaining accuracy of reported data.

In order to minimize respondent burden while maintaining a comprehensive data set for all major commodities, the crops being surveyed rotate on a regular basis.  Some commodities that have little change in production costs or techniques may only be surveyed once every 5 or 10 years; while other crops that change on a more frequent basis may be surveyed every 2 to 3 years.

Congressional mandates exist for the development of annual estimates of the cost of producing wheat, feed grains, cotton, tobacco, and dairy commodities. To ensure accurate and reliable estimates, a comprehensive survey is needed to obtain data on production practices and the amounts of inputs used. Estimates of crop and livestock costs and returns provide a basis for understanding changes in the relative efficiency of crop and livestock production and the break-even prices needed to cover all costs. The ARMS provides the data needed to develop "enterprise" budgets showing costs and input use by size and type of farm in different regions of the country. An "enterprise" is the portion of an operation's resources devoted to producing a specific commodity.

Fruit and Vegetable Chemical Use Surveys. The fruit and vegetable chemical use surveys alternate (fruit in odd numbered years; and vegetable in even numbered years) This information will be used by NASS, EPA, ERS, and other parties to assess the environmental and economic implications of various programs and policies and the impact on agricultural producers and consumers. The basic chemical use and farm practices information will also be used to produce a national chemical use database. This database is an integral source of data for the Water Quality Initiative, USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, and the Food Quality Protection Act. These surveys of fruit and vegetable growers provide detailed, comprehensive information on actual chemical use rates, application practices, production practices, and integrated pest management (IPM) practices for a list of targeted fruit and vegetable crops.

The Vegetable Chemical Use Surveys are preceded by a screening survey integrated with the ARMS Phase 1 and consists of screening the classified population for the commodities being targeted; only operations with the targeted vegetable commodity are eligible for sampling for the following phases. The Integrated Screening Survey (ISS) is conducted from May to early July of the years the Vegetable Chemical Use Survey is conducted. The main data collection is in the fall and involves contacting the selected respondents and collecting information on chemical use for targeted commodities on the entire operation.

With the use of the Fruit and Vegetable Chemical Use Surveys as with the ARMS phase 2 surveys, NASS will be able to measure changes in rates and types of chemicals used.  Changes will be due in part to the changes in costs of crude oil, restrictions on water usage, and the availability of inputs.  

The Vegetable Chemical Use survey was previously conducted in 2020 in the following 18 States: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.   

The commodities of interest have been: Asparagus, snap beans, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, garlic, honeydew, head and other lettuce, dry onions, green peas, bell peppers, pumpkins, spinach, squash, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon. If production trends change, the mix of states and commodities included in the program may be refined.

In 2021, the twelve States conducting the Fruit Chemical Use Survey were California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.  Commodities of interest were: apples, apricots, avocados, blueberries, cherries (sweet & tart), dates, grapefruit, grapes, kiwifruit, lemons, nectarines, olives, oranges, peaches, pears, plums & prunes, raspberries, strawberries, and tangerines/tangelos.  If production trends change, the mix of states and commodities included in the program may be refined.

These data are important in decisions about agricultural chemical use. Pesticide use, particularly on fruits and vegetables that are a large part of children’s diets, is of particular interest to those charged with enforcing the Food Quality Protection Act. A current accounting of farm chemical use in States producing over 85 percent of the nation’s fruit and vegetable production is essential for evaluating the economic, environmental, and public health consequences of farm chemical regulations. The Chemical Use Surveys include all fruit and vegetables with production estimates which are significant and critical to the nation’s food supply.  
 
Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) https://www.nass.usda.gov/Surveys/Guide_to_NASS_Surveys/Ag_Resource_Management/
NASS submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202303-0535-004 Click IC List for information collection instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this webpage.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-08925

For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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