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Posts tagged: statistics

Honey: A Sweet Topic with New Data this Spring

Honey bees

Besides honey, honey bees also produce beeswax, propolis, royal jelly and bee bread.

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.

Every day, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) statisticians work hard to produce timely, accurate and useful statistics to U.S agriculture. In addition to producing hundreds of reports each year on crops, livestock and economic indicators for the agriculture industry, NASS collects and reports annual data for honey bee colonies. Historically, we’ve only surveyed operations or farms with five or more colonies, but in 2015 we expanded the survey to cover operations of all sizes. As a statistician who is also a beekeeper, I am pleased to provide valuable information about honey as a public service and decision-making tool.

The annual honey report publishes the maximum number of honey producing colonies, honey yield, value of honey production, and honey price by color class and marketing channel. In addition to bee and honey surveys, the Census of Agriculture, which is collected every five years, publishes number of operations, number of colonies, pounds of honey produced and value produced. NASS has data on honey production dating back to 1986. Current honey and honey bee data is available on the NASS website. Read more »

Agricultural Data Users Weigh-in on USDA Statistical Programs

USDA NASS Data Users Meeting graphic

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will hold its annual Data Users’ Meeting, followed by a live Twitter #StatChat at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, October 18.

As I’ve learned over my years with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), in order to make an impact, our information needs to meet the needs of the people who use the data we produce. And while we constantly try to gauge and meet their needs, it is imperative to speak to our data users directly to get their input. We are open to feedback all the time and we hold annual special Data Users’ Meeting in Chicago every October.

Of course face-to-face interaction has its limitations since not everyone can travel to Chicago to meet with us. To address this concern, for the first time this year, we are also adding a social media component to our Data Users’ Meeting. Immediately following the panel session at the meeting, from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time, I will be answering questions via Twitter during our monthly #StatChat. Read more »

Statistical Information Critical to Efficient Markets

Lance Honig, NASS' Crops Branch Chief, presenting monthly Crop Production report overview

Lance Honig, NASS' Crops Branch Chief, presenting monthly Crop Production report overview.

Starting next week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will reach out to tens of thousands of farmers across the United States. Our interviewers will go door to door and make phone calls to collect the most accurate information possible about farmland in each state. In addition, we’ll ask farmers to report their acres planted by crop, and total grains & oilseeds stored on their farms. We will then spend several weeks processing and analyzing the responses we receive so that we can publish some of the most anticipated reports by the end of the month. Let’s just say we keep things busy in June!

Personally, I’ve gone through all aspects of NASS surveys. Growing up on our family farm in Kansas, I saw my father fill out surveys he received from USDA’s statistical agency. Later I joined NASS myself and got a chance to work with and survey farmers in Kansas, Indiana, and North Dakota. Over time, my career brought me to NASS’ Washington, D.C. office where I lead teams of statisticians who analyze survey data and other information to publish official U.S. crop estimates. Read more »

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 »