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Abstract

Economic statistics can be used to inform policy as it is being designed, avoid policy design mistakes, or implement government programs once they are established into law. Oftentimes, statistics are used for all three purposes. This paper considers the relationships between statistics and agricultural policy in the case of the United States. We address first the broad historical picture of U.S. official economic statistics concerning agriculture, and then turn to selected examples that relate policies to economic statistics in more detail. The examples show diversity in the interplay between statistics and policy. As policies have become broader in scope, addressing not only farm commodity markets but also differences among farms and a widening set of activities on farms, policymakers have asked for more detailed information about the financial situation of individual farm businesses and households, sources of risk in farm returns, and production practices that affect the environment.

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