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Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL)

Full Report:


Report Form and Instructions:

2014 TOTAL Landlord Sample report form
2014 TOTAL Operator Sample report form


General Questions About the TOTAL Survey

  • 1. What is Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL)

    The Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) Survey is a comprehensive study of all land rented out for agricultural purposes, including both land rented out by those who are themselves farmers and ranchers (operator landlords) and land rented out by those who do not operate a farm themselves (non-operator landlords). This survey is a follow-on component of the Census of Agriculture program. NASS conducted the TOTAL survey in collaboration with the Economic Research Service (ERS).

  • 2. What type of information did NASS collect in TOTAL?

    The TOTAL survey collected information about landowners who rent out agricultural land, including both landowners who farm or ranch and also rent agricultural land to other farmers and ranchers (operator landlords) and landowners who rent out land for agricultural purposes but do not farm (non-operator landlords). The survey collected income, expense, debt, and asset information related to land ownership, transition plans, and demographic and other landlord characteristics from both operator landlords and non-operator landlords.

  • 3. How did NASS conduct the TOTAL survey?

    NASS collected data by mail, personal interviews, and online from over 40,000 landowners across the United States. The agency mailed the forms in December 2014. NASS followed-up by phone with landlord owners who did not respond by mail to maximize response. In some special cases, NASS visited the landowners’ operation.

  • 4. Was this survey mandatory like the Agriculture Census?

    Yes. The TOTAL survey is part of the Census of Agriculture program, which is required by United States law (Title 7, U.S. Code). All those who received a questionnaire were required to respond even if they did not operate a farm that year.


Questions About TOTAL Survey Results

  • 5. How are the TOTAL results published?

    TOTAL results are available in digital form via NASS’ Quick Stats database. Several predefined queries are available on the results page to help find TOTAL data. NASS also compiled a summary of the key data highlights.

  • 6. What are the major components of the results?

    The survey results are in these four major components:
    1. Non-operator landlords who don’t farm,
    2. Operator landlords who farm and also rent out land to others who farm,
    3. All land rented out (both operator and non-operator landlords), and
    4. All land (including farmers and ranchers who do not rent out land).

  • 7. Why are data available only for 25 states and the U.S.?

    While landlords were surveyed in all 48 states, the top 25 cash receipt states were surveyed extensively, which represented 85.5% of all farm cash receipts in the United States. As a result, final data are available at national level as well for these core 25 states.

  • 8. How is the reliability measured?

    First, the estimates themselves are survey indications, so each data item has a range of reliability. This reliability is measured by a Coefficient of Variation, as shown on the CV column in Quick Stats. The survey methodology is explained in more detail in the Quality Measures Report.

  • 9. Are you only counting individual landlords?

    No. The term landlord is applied to all types of landlord entities, including individuals, partnerships, corporations, trusts, and other such as municipalities and limited liability companies. Sometimes landlord entities rent out farm land in different arrangements to different farmers. For instance, a landlord might rent out land they own as an individual to a relative, and also belong to a corporation that rents out land to other farmers. This situation applies to a small percentage of non-operator landlords, but is important to remember when looking at the counts of landlords.

    The demographic information is data about individual landlords and the principal partner in a non-operator partnership. Corporations and trusts are entities that often contain many people. Because genders can’t be assigned to groups, corporations and trusts landowners are excluded from the demographic data calculations.

  • 10. How is the data organized in Quick Stats?

    Quick Stats is organized so that key summary variables are broken out. For instance, breaking out the total acreage rented out by gender tells the relationship between male and female landlords. These breakouts are called domains and include categories for: Gender, age, race, ethnicity, value of land and buildings, education, acres rented out, tenants, landlord ownership types, acres fully or not fully paid for, and work status.

  • 11. Are there any previous results to which I can compare new data?

    The last time these type of data were collected was in 1999 in the Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey (AELOS). While the two surveys collected similar data, there were differences in how the surveys were sampled, conducted, and summarized. For example, due to changes in the U.S. agriculture sector, the TOTAL survey included trust ownerships, which were not counted in AELOS. As a result of this and other changes in the survey process, most TOTAL data are not directly comparable to earlier survey data on this topic.

  • 12. Can I get access to individual landlord information?

    No. All respondents are guaranteed confidentiality by law (Title 7, U.S. Code, and CIPSEA, Public Law 107-347). These laws require us to all information about individual landowners and their land confidential. NASS publishes data only in tabulated totals.

  • 13. What if I can’t figure out how to use Quick Stats?

    NASS has several tutorials and documents available for you to familiarize yourself with Quick Stats. If you need additional help, you can email us at or call our Ag Statistics Hotline at 1-800-727-9540.

Last Modified: 08/02/2017