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Posts tagged: statistics

Deciphering County Estimates Process

2015 Soybean Yield graphic

2015 Soybean Yield graphic. Click to enlarge.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Farmers love data. And while big picture items are great, growers tell us they really want and can use local data. In addition to national and state-level statistics, some of our most popular data are the county-level agricultural production information that we collect and publish.

Collecting local data is not an easy task. For example, in Iowa, where I oversee agricultural statistics, to determine 2015 county-level numbers, we surveyed 11,500 farmers in December and January to supplement data from nearly 3,000 Iowa farmers surveyed for the January 12th Crop Production Annual Summary report. These statistical surveys are designed so all farmers in the state have a chance to be selected for participation. In order to publish county data, we need responses from at least 30 producers in each county or yield reports for at least 25 percent of the harvested acreage in a county. Luckily, here in Iowa, we received 50 or more farmer reports for many counties but we still had a couple of counties that did not make the 30 report requirement for publication. Read more »

Public Engagement as Necessary as Math, Science

King Whetstone, (right), regional director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Northeastern Regional Field Office, meeting with attendees

King Whetstone, (right), regional director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Northeastern Regional Field Office, meets with attendees, Jan. 15, at the 2016 Pennsylvania Farm Show, the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the United States.

It goes without saying a successful statistician must have strong math, analytical and technical skills. You might be surprised to learn, then, just how much of my time is dedicated to listening to and talking with people. To be sure, I still use math and science daily. Two decades into my career, however, it’s those intentional, important interactions with farmers who answer my agency’s requests for information, as well with those who use my agency’s data, researchers, analysts and farmers themselves that keep me busiest.

Why? Because NASS is the “go to” source for official government statistics on U.S. agricultural production, economics, land, water, energy, environmental management and farmer demographics. Part of my job includes making sure farmers want to respond to our surveys and censuses and that researchers choose to use our data because it is the most accurate and unbiased. Read more »

New Statistics Help Guide New Farmer Programs

Farmland infographic

National Agricultural Statistics Service data released today (Feb. 18) shows there are now 2.07 million farms in the United States and the average farm size is up 3 acres from the previous year, to 441 acres.

Farmland is one of the most precious resources we have in this country. After all, it’s what we rely on for our food, fuel, and fiber. Unfortunately farmland is also a finite resource, and getting access to it is one of the major challenges new and beginning farmers and ranchers face. This is also why USDA analyzes many aspects of farms and farmland distribution.

Since 2007 we have seen the American agricultural industry reshape itself. Each year, the number of farms has declined while the average farm size keeps getting larger. According to the new numbers we released earlier today the trend is continuing. There are now 2.07 million farms in the United States, down 1 percent from a year before, with the average farm size of 441 acres, up 3 acres from the previous year. Read more »

Deck the Halls with Holiday Data

Christmas Trees infographic

U.S. Christmas tree growers harvested and sold 20 million trees last year, up 55 percent in 5 years.

From the smell of fresh pine, to the vibrant colors of poinsettias, the holiday season is the perfect time of year to spotlight America’s horticulture growers through the just released 2014 Census of Horticultural Specialties report. I’ve experienced firsthand how unique and amazing this industry is by working nationwide with producers and stakeholders as USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics (NASS) nursery and floriculture commodity specialist.

For example, did you know farmers can invest more than 8 years growing a Christmas tree for harvest? While there are not many producers dedicated to this work, according to our latest report industry sales grew. In 2014, there were 3,386 Christmas tree producers in the United States. That year there were a total of 20 million cut Christmas trees sold, valued at $367 million in sales. This was a significant increase from the last report in 2009, when only 13 million trees were cut and sold for a total of $250 million. Read more »

A Banner Year for Data: 5 New Ways We’re Keeping Ag Statistics Current

USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.

The past 12 months made for an eventful year in the world of agricultural statistics. In our efforts to remain true to our mission of providing timely, accurate, and useful statistics, we transformed several of our programs and tackled research to keep up with data needs of a changing agricultural industry. These new initiatives ensure that NASS continues to serve farmers, ranchers, and rural communities across the nation and that decisions impacting U.S. agriculture continue to be based on factual data.

Some of our most transformative work in 2015 included: Read more »

Producing Statistics about Hard-to-Reach Populations through Adaptive and Network Sampling

Dr. Steve Thompson at the 25th annual Morris Hansen Lecture

Dr. Steve Thompson headlined the 25th annual Morris Hansen Lecture, November 17, 2015.

The number of people who had heart disease related surgeries, the percentage of Americans who take anti-depressants; the number of women who opt for natural childbirth, these are health statistics you likely hear about in the news frequently. But how do public health researchers obtain data about hard-to-reach, marginalized populations such as the homeless at-risk of contracting specific things like HIV/AIDS?

Producing statistics about hidden, underserved populations was one of the topics explored by Dr. Steve Thompson, professor of statistics at Simon Fraser University during the 25th annual Morris Hansen Lecture hosted by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The lecture series was established by the Washington Statistical Society to honor Morris Hansen and his pioneering contributions to survey sampling and related statistical methods during his long and distinguished service at the U.S. Census Bureau. More than 200 people attended this year’s lecture at USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium in Washington. Read more »