Secure collection and delivery of agricultural data


Posted by Jim Barrett, NASS Public Affairs in Research and Science

Jul 29, 2021

NASS data and reporting continues uninterrupted despite a temporary suspension of in-person data collection from March 2020 due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more than 150 years, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has collected accurate, timely and useful data in the service of American agriculture. We have many ways to collect information, including from geospatial sources, administrative data from other agencies, and familiar farm and ranch surveys. All NASS surveys can be completed online, but sometimes we need to contact each other by phone or in person.

In March, we stopped collecting in-person data for the health and safety of investigators, staff, and the farmers and ranchers we serve. Fortunately, many projects were already underway to modernize our operations, allowing us to react quickly. In fact, as we adapt the way we work, we have continued to collect and publish high quality data on time during the COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with data security mandates, we were able to process and publish the data securely.

For a few surveys, the data collection methods have not changed drastically. Field sampling of corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat for the NASS target yield survey continues, although we are working with growers over the phone rather than in person. Field investigators enter and submit information during the growing season using their tablets.

For the other surveys, we modernized the online questionnaire, which makes it an easier and more convenient way for farmers and ranchers to complete surveys. In fact, nearly half a million farmers and ranchers completed the 2017 Census of Agriculture online. For NASS, responding to online surveys reduces processing time and costs since we do not need to print, mail or scan paper forms.

Our data and reports stay on time and meet the highest quality standards. They are available in several ways, including the website; Cornell University Mann Library (a USDA repository); website and email report subscription services; quick statistics database and API; and json files for the data of the main economic indicators.

We continued to organize free virtual meetings of public data users in April and in October. We, along with our sister agencies, have shared recent and pending program changes, and asked for feedback on various data and information programs important to agriculture.

Modern technology and tools have allowed us to securely collect data and deliver punctual, objective and accurate results that help you in your work. We thank producers across the country for responding to their surveys in the way that works best for them, and most importantly for responding online where possible.

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