USDA Advisory Committee NASS
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National Agricultural Statistics Service
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Advisory Committee on Agriculture Statistics
Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Agriculture Statistics

April 25 - 26, 2000

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Crowne Plaza Hotel
Washington, D.C.

   Contents
  • Attendants at Meeting
  • Day One Summary
  • Day Two Summary
  • Committee Motions and Actions
  • Committee Recommendations and NASS Comments
  • Agenda (Appendix 1)

  • Attendants at Meeting
    Members Present  
    Charles E. Adams Mary A. Pamplin (Chair)
    Walter J. Armbruster Bobby R. Phills
    Arthur R. Brown Ross R. Racine
    Robert D. Epperson James D. Rieck
    John I. Gifford Gumecindo Salas
    Carol A. Gregg Lee F. Schrader
    Mark W. Jenner Topper Thorpe
    Thomas H. Kimmell Hugh A. Warren
    Ling-Jung (Kelvin) Koong Mark E. Whalon
    Mark D. Lange Ewen M. Wilson (Ex-Officio)
    Andrew W. LaVigne Ron C. Wimberley
    Sheila K. Massey Ivan W. Wyatt
       
    Members Absent  
    Jack C. Mitenbuler  
    Edward J. Pennick  
       
       

    Contents of Meeting

    USDA Personnel Participating

    Miley Gonzalez, Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics
    Ron Bosecker, Administrator, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)
    Rich Allen, Committee Executive Director and Associate Administrator, NASS
    Fred Vogel, Deputy Administrator for Programs and Products, NASS
    Joe Reilly, Deputy Administrator for Field Operations, NASS
    Carol House, Director of Research and Development Division, NASS
    Jack Nealon, Director of Statistics Division, NASS
    Steve Wiyatt, Director of Census and Survey Division, NASS

    Other Guests Present

    Kathleen Depukat, Environmental Protection Agency
    Francine Hardy, Statistics Canada
    Merritt Padgitt, Economic Research Service, USDA
    Kitty Smith, Economic Research Service, USDA
    David Salmonsen, American Farm Bureau Federation
    James Varnado, Office of Budget and Program Analysis, USDA
    Jim Zavrel, Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce

    Other NASS Personnel Present

    Bill Arends
    Jim Brueggen
    Marshall Dantzler
    Esther Darnell
    Craig Flynn
    Janice Goodwin
    Kent Hoover
    Linda Hutton
    Chrissy Jenkins
    Brian Lounsbury
    Joe Miller
    Greg Preston
    Cathy Tomczak
    Arnie Wilcox
    Phil Zellers
    Contents of Meeting

    Day One Summary

    Committee chair Ashby Pamplin opened the Advisory Committee meeting. Rich Allen discussed the meeting's focus and logistics. He then introduced Miley Gonzalez, Under Secretary for the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area of the USDA .

    Under Secretary Gonzalez welcomed the Committee and recognized the wide agricultural representation of members on the Committee. He commented on the changing structure and role of the agriculture sector, its effect on urban areas, and the need for good agricultural statistics. He emphasized the importance of committee activities in helping the USDA develop sound policy for long range sustainability and stated that he looks forward to its advice.

    Ron Bosecker provided introductory remarks. He described the key roles of the Advisory Committee, presented REE mission area goals, and discussed NASS core values. He will provide committee members with an updated NASS Strategic Plan and will ask for member comments.

    Steve Wiyatt provided an overview of census of agriculture procedures including proposed time line, target dates, and general processing flow. He also presented census issues and concerns related to coordination of the census with ongoing surveys, computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), questionnaire scanning and character recognition, web based data collection, publication products, follow-on special studies, and censuses in outlying areas such as Puerto Rico.

    Fred Vogel presented an overview of the census of agriculture content review which included comments on respondent burden, comparability with history, and concept changes involving the reporting unit for data items. The committee engaged in lengthy discussions on census content issues related to coverage, production expenses, value of sales, net returns, chemical usage, farm machinery and equipment, irrigation, production contracts, and operation characteristics and demographics.

    Francine Hardy of Statistics Canada and Jim Zavrel from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) made brief statements during the public questions and comments period. Francine commented and answered questions on Statistics Canada's census procedures, coverage issues, procedures to collect demographic data, web based data collection activities, and CATI operations. Jim Zavrel provided an overview of the BEA program and stressed the importance of the census of agriculture to their work.

    Carol House presented an overview of American Indian Census procedures. She provided some historical perspective, discussed current issues, and proposed options for 2002. These options included repeating 1997 procedures and a proposed budget initiative to improve Indian reservation data and produce a special publication. Committee discussions involved the historic treatment of reservations as a single farm, the independent and highly variable nature of Indian reservations, the impact of Indian agriculture on the farm sector as a whole, the need for improved data collection procedures, and the goal of better coverage.

    Contents of Meeting

    Day Two Summary

    Ron Bosecker presented six NASS data use principals and led discussion of a draft policy and standards memorandum on access to unpublished data. The six data use principals include (1) names, addresses, and personal identifiers are never revealed nor kept with data; (2) NASS survey and census data never leave NASS facilities; (3) only authorized persons working for NASS as employees or sworn partners, who are subject to fines and imprisonment for unauthorized disclosure, can access NASS data and only for approved statistical purposes; (4) NASS does not conduct surveys or provide data for private, proprietary purposes; (5) when NASS collects data for others in a NASS approved statistical study, farmers and ranchers will always be informed about the cooperating sponsor and participation will always be voluntary; and (6) summary data from all NASS surveys and censuses are available to everyone, but will never disclose individual reported information. The committee discussed the concept of employees and sworn partners, what constitutes an approved statistical study, sponsored surveys, and public announcement of sponsored surveys and special data tabulations.

    Comments were made on NASS Data Use/Access. The subcommittee expressed its appreciation for NASS's openness and acceptance of input and stated that it was comforting to know the number of NASS personnel involved in the process, but felt the ultimate responsibility is on the Administrator. There were additional comments noting that it was nice to know that the NASS data access firewall exists with a foundation in fair access. Regulatory realities make the use of NASS data crucial and legal realities create high standards for data access. There are two opposing perspectives which involve confidentiality, trust, and anonymity on one hand and the appropriate use of data on the other. There is a good double screen in NASS policy which includes (1) the swearing in of data users and statistical review prior to access, and (2) screening of all output.

    Rich Allen provided an overview of mandatory business reporting issues including the advantages of voluntary reporting, reasons for non-reporting, current situation in NASS, 1995 Farm Bill proposal, and possible options. The committee discussed the pros and cons to mandatory business reporting, the effects of incomplete or inaccurate reporting on prices, and the potential need for auditing.

    Ashby Pamplin called for new committee business which led to a discussion of creating an executive committee which could include past, present, and future committee chairs and two at-large members. There was concern that the rest of the committee would just become a rubber stamp for the executive committee and that the full committee may want to stick with forming ad hoc subcommittees to deal with specific issues. An executive committee was not formed.

    The committee also discussed issues for the next meeting's agenda which included coverage of small farms, environmental statistics, and committee chair election. This was Ashby Pamplin's last meeting as chair, Topper Thorpe is the chair elect. The committee agreed to wait until next meeting to elect the chair to succeed Topper. A nominating committee was formed which included Art Brown, Hugh Warren, and Ron Wimberley.

    Ashby Pamplin called on committee members for recommendations which follow. She raised questions on the role of the Advisory Committee and NASS's obligation to respond to committee recommendations.

    Contents of Meeting

    Committee Motions and Actions

    The Advisory Committee made a number of motions which are listed below along with the name of the person making the motion and action taken.

    1. The Committee supports the draft Policy and Standards Memorandum 7, Access to Unpublished Data, as distributed for this meeting. (Mark Jenner)
    2. Action: Passed. It was noted that some cleaning up of the wording in the Handbook for Special Sworn Data Users is needed.

    3. The Committee recommends the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (FRIS) be continued as a Census follow-on survey into the foreseeable future. (Tom Kimmell)
    4. Action: Passed.

    5. The Committee recommends that annually there should be questions asked on a survey to determine what acres are being irrigated and changes in acres from the previous year. Data should also be collected by types of systems (surface, sprinkler, drip, micro, etc.) added or removed. (Tom Kimmell)
    6. Action: Withdrawn to be discussed with other environmental issues at the next meeting. The basic need is information on agriculture's use of water.

    7. The Committee recommends the Chair appoint an ad hoc committee to draft an agenda for discussion of environmental issues at the next meeting. (Walt Armbruster)
    8. Action: Passed. The following members are assigned to the committee: Hugh Warren, chair; Mark Whalon; Mark Jenner; Tom Kimmell; and Jack Mitenbuler. A NASS representative will also be assigned. NASS will prepare a short (two page) summary of environmental data series for the committee's use.

    9. The Committee recommends that NASS makes a commitment to invest its existing resources, to the extent possible, to collect agricultural census and survey data from Indian reservations. In addition, the NASS Advisory Committee strongly urges Secretary Glickman to provide additional funding to NASS for this effort. (Kelvin Koong)
    10. Action: Passed.

    11. The Committee recommends that NASS should seek authority for conducting mandatory surveys when prices for one segment in an industry are dependent upon the reporting of information from another segment. (Kelvin Koong)
    12. Action: Did not pass.

    13. The Committee recommends an ad hoc committee be appointed to address the whole area of data collection and mandatory reporting for NASS business surveys and report to the next meeting. (Mark Whalon)
    14. Action: Passed. The following members are assigned to the committee: Kelvin Koong, Topper Thorpe, Andy LaVigne, Lee Schrader, and Bob Epperson. A NASS representative will be assigned. Liaisons from ERS and the Office of the Chief Economist will be sought because of their efforts to study mandatory reporting. NASS (Rich Allen) will prepare a short (two page) summary itemizing NASS's business surveys for the committee's use.

    15. The Committee recommends that the Equipment Section of the 2002 Agricultural Census collect total value of all equipment and retain the three tractor breakouts, grain and bean combines, and cotton pickers and strippers from the 1997 Census, but eliminate trucks, mower conditioners, and pickup balers. (Jim Rieck)
    16. Action: Passed.

    17. The Committee specifically affirms its support of NASS policy for announcing all data sets coming out of the data lab and making the specific data sets available upon request as stated in the draft Policy and Standards Memorandum 7, Access to Unpublished Data. (Mark Jenner)
    18. Action: Passed.

    19. The Committee recommends that definitions and terms in items 1 and 2 of the Production Expenses Section of the 2002 Agricultural Census be expanded to include terms meaningful to organic producers. (Mark Whalon)
    20. Action: Passed.

      Contents of Meeting

    Committee Recommendations and NASS Responses

    The Advisory Committee passed the following eight recommendations and NASS has responded to each.

    Recommendation 1

    The Committee supports the draft Policy and Standards Memorandum 7, Access to Unpublished Data, as distributed for this meeting. It was noted that some cleaning up of the wording in the Handbook for Special Sworn Data Users is needed.

    NASS Response

    The policy and principals on access to unpublished data outlined in Policy and Standards Memorandum 7 are being applied to all data access requests. Ongoing data sharing agreements are also being reviewed with this policy in mind. The Agency has publicized this policy by distributing printed copies of a NASS Confidentiality Pledge brochure which outlines the six guiding principals we operate under to safeguard the privacy of data providers. This product is also available on NASS's Home Page. The Handbook for Special Sworn Data Users was revised in July 2000. In addition, a NASS working group is looking into longer range procedural options for access to unpublished data.

    Recommendation 2

    The Committee recommends the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (FRIS) be continued as a Census follow-on survey into the foreseeable future.

    NASS Response

    Final decisions on future census follow-on surveys and studies have not been made. We understand the value of having detailed information concerning irrigation practices, quantity of water, and method of application. Plans for the 2002 Census of Agriculture assume that a follow-on FRIS will be conducted and provide comparable detailed data for the 50 states. NASS expects that budgets will support the continuation of the Farm and Ranch Irrigation survey.

    Recommendation 3

    The Committee recommends the Chair appoint an ad hoc committee to draft an agenda for discussion of environmental issues at the next meeting. The following members are assigned to the committee: Hugh Warren, Chair: Mark Whalon; Mark Jenner; Tom Kimmell; and Jack Mitenbuler. A NASS representative will also be assigned. NASS will prepare a short summary of environmental data series for the Committee's use.

    NASS Response

    Members of the Subcommittee participated in NASS's Environmental Data Users Meeting held in Washington, D.C., in October 2000. They met after this meeting and produced a list of 6 topic items which will be the basis for generating an environmental issues agenda for the next Committee meeting. The full Advisory Committee was provided a NASS environmental data plan for the next 1, 3, and 5 years. NASS is currently working on this environmental plan with budgetary issues and the needs of data users in mind. Linda Hutton, Chief, Environmental, Economics, and Demographics Branch is the NASS representative to the Subcommittee.

    Contents of Meeting

    Recommendation 4

    The Committee recommends that NASS makes a commitment to invest its existing resources, to the extent possible, to collect agricultural census and survey data from Indian reservations. In addition, the NASS Advisory Committee strongly urges Secretary Glickman to provide additional funding to NASS for this effort.

    NASS Response

    NASS proposed that $1 million be added to the base census budget in Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 to improve the agricultural statistics program for American Indians and other minority farm operators. In anticipation of FY 2002 funding, NASS has a permanent staff member designated to spend half-time on developing a plan to improve coverage of agriculture on Indian reservations during the 2002 Census of Agriculture. The plan includes improving the list of Indian operators, developing a data collection plan for reservations, and determining data products for Indian reservations.

    Recommendation 5

    The Committee recommends an ad hoc committee be appointed to address the whole area of data collection and mandatory reporting for NASS business surveys and report to the next meeting. The following members are assigned to the committee: Kelvin Koong, Topper Thorpe, Andy LaVigne, Lee Schrader, and Bob Epperson. A NASS representative will be assigned. Liaisons from ERS and the Office of the Chief Economist will be sought because of their efforts to study mandatory reporting. NASS will prepare a short summary itemizing NASS's business surveys for the committee's use.

    NASS Response

    The extent of current mandatory reporting activities in NASS involves compliance with the "Dairy Market Enhancement Act of 2000." A status report on mandatory reporting in NASS was provided to the Subcommittee in December 2000 which included a list of NASS business surveys and background information on each. An additional status memo and a teleconference will be used to assist the Subcommittee in preparing a report for the full Committee. A Subcommittee Chair was not selected at the meeting and Lee Schrader agreed to serve without objections from other Subcommittee members. Bob Milton, Chief, Livestock Branch is the NASS representative to the Subcommittee.

    Recommendation 6

    The Committee recommends that the Equipment Section of the 2002 Agricultural Census collect total value of all equipment and retain the three tractor breakouts, grain and bean combines, and cotton pickers and strippers from the 1997 Census, but eliminate trucks, mower conditioners, and pickup balers.

    NASS Response

    The industry has requested that self-propelled harvesters be broken down into three subitems:

    1) grain and bean harvesters, 2) cotton pickers and strippers and 3) forage harvesters. In addition, the industry wanted to collect all hay balers in a separate item. Otherwise, the committee recommendation is consistent with current plans.

    Contents of Meeting

    Recommendation 7

    The Committee specifically affirms its support of NASS policy for announcing all data sets coming out of the data lab and making the specific data sets available upon request as stated in the draft Policy and Standards Memorandum 7, Access to Unpublished Data.

    NASS Response

    In September 2000, NASS implemented a Data Lab Website where a listing of recent special tabulations is available to the public. The new site has generated a good deal of interest in the special tabulations but very few data users actually requested a tabulation from the website listing. Most inquiries from the website are satisfied from either existing NASS publications or by creating a new special tabulation.

    There have been a few projects where analysis was performed in NASS facilities by researchers and publishable data resulting from this research were included in releases from other agencies.

    Although listed on the Data Lab Website, most inquiries about those data sets go to the agency releasing the research report. This has resulted in positive cooperative efforts where needed analysis is performed by specialists in other agencies who are better able to describe such work.

    Recommendation 8

    The Committee recommends that definitions and terms in items 1 and 2 of the Production Expenses Section of the 2002 Agricultural Census be expanded to include terms meaningful to organic producers.

    NASS Response

    Plans are for the wording of questions 1 and 2 of the Production Expenditures Section and/or the reporting instructions to address organic practices.

    Contents of Meeting

    Appendix 1. Agenda

    ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE STATISTICS
    UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
    NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS SERVICE

    April 25-26, 2000
    Crowne Plaza Hotel, Washington, D.C.
    14th & K Streets NW

    Tuesday, April 25

    Time Topic/Activity Discussion Leader
     8:00 a.m. Call to Order and Introduction Ashby Pamplin, Committee Chair
     8:10 a.m. Meeting Plans Rich Allen, Associate Administrator
       and Committee Executive Director
     8:15 a.m. Welcome I. Miley Gonzalez, Under Secretary,
       Research, Education, and Economics
     8:30 a.m. Introductory Remarks Ron Bosecker, Administrator
     8:45 a.m. Overview of Census Procedures Steve Wiyatt, Director of Census and Survey Division
     9:15 a.m. Overview of Census Content Review Fred Vogel, Deputy Administrator For Programs
       and Products
     9:45 a.m. BREAK  
    10:00 a.m. Census of Agriculture Content Ashby Pamplin
    11:30 a.m. LUNCH  
     1:00 p.m. Census of Agriculture Content Ashby Pamplin
     2:30 p.m. BREAK  
     2:45 p.m. Census of Agriculture Content Ashby Pamplin
     3:30 p.m Public Questions and Comments Ashby Pamplin
     3:45 p.m American Indian Reservation Carol House, Director of Research Census Procedures
       and Development Division
     4:15 p.m. New Committee Business Ashby Pamplin
     4:30 p.m. ADJOURN  
     5:30 p.m. Reception (Cash Bar)  

     

    ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE STATISTICS
    UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
    NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS SERVICE

    April 25-26, 2000
    Crowne Plaza Hotel, Washington, D.C.
    14th & K Streets NW

    Wednesday, April 26

    Time Topic/Activity Discussion Leader
     8:00 a.m. Call to Order Ashby Pamplin
     8:05 a.m. NASS Data Use Policy Ron Bosecker
     9:00 a.m. Mandatory Business Reporting Rich Allen
     9:30 a.m. BREAK  
     9:45 a.m. Public Questions and Comments Ashby Pamplin
    10:15 a.m. Committee Recommendations Ashby Pamplin
    11:30 a.m. ADJOURN  
    Contents of Meeting