USDA to measure financial well-being of dairy farmers

Representatives of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service are visiting dairy farms across the nation in January to assess the state of today’s dairy industry.

NASS representatives are collecting data for the final phase of the 2016 Agricultural Resource Management Survey, said Herman Ellison, NASS state statistician for Virginia. ARMS is a joint effort between NASS and the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

The survey is an annual undertaking that gathers information on production practices and costs and the financial well-being of American farm families. ARMS targets select commodities on a rotational basis. The last time the survey focused on the dairy sector was in 2010.

“Dairy farming has changed significantly over the past two decades, so this data is more important than ever,” said Tony Banks, assistant director of commodity marketing for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The results of the 2016 ARMS will help USDA and other policymakers analyze the impacts of the new Dairy Margin Protection Program, introduced in the 2014 Farm Bill. With operational costs driving structural changes within the dairy industry, the program aims to help dairy producers when milk prices drop and feed prices remain high. USDA launched the program in 2015, and the current survey is crucial to measuring its initial effects.

All dairy farmers selected to participate in the 2016 ARMS will be notified with a mailed postcard, Ellison said. Personal interviews will begin in late January and will continue through early April.

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