Farm Environmental Management Survey (FEMS)

Detailed information for 2001




Every 5 years

Record number:


The information generated from this survey is needed to support the industry's environmental initiatives, to address federal and provincial policy needs and to guide sustainable development actions in Canada's agriculture sector.

Data release - September 19, 2002


The national survey on farm environmental management practices is a key aspect of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's new National Agri-Environmental Health Analysis and Reporting Program (NAHARP). The information generated from this survey is needed to support the industry's environmental initiatives, to address federal and provincial policy needs and to guide sustainable development actions in Canada's agriculture sector. This voluntary survey, focusing on both livestock and crop operations, is the second of a comprehensive series of surveys, which will allow the establishment of base lines and development of updates for an expanded set of agri-environmental indicators. These indicators are needed to determine the present status of farm environmental management across Canada; identify areas that are most in need of environmental management movements; and generate the information to design effective and well targeted policy and program responses. This survey is conducted in conjunction with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, to ensure that agriculture programs reflect the changing way resources are being managed, on today's farms.

Reference period: Calendar year


  • Agriculture and food (formerly Agriculture)
  • Land use and environmental practices

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The conceptual universe is made up of all active farms with sales greater than $10,000 as found in the Agriculture Division's Farm Register.

Instrument design

The Farm Environmental Management Survey questionnaire was designed by a project team made up of Statistics Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada employees and provincial focal points assigned to the project. Questionnaire design specialists were consulted in Statistics Canada. Due to time limitations the full questionnaire was not tested in the field prior to data collection. However, a survey with similar characteristics called the "Farm Inputs Management Survey" was conducted by Statistics Canada in 1996.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

Sampling Plan

There was a requirement to report the survey results by watershed/province and farm type. The survey costs were directly related to the complexity of the survey questions, the time it takes to collect the information and the sample size. In the case of the Farm Environmental Management Survey, the questionnaire was 57 questions long with some questions having a decided level of complexity. In order to support the level of reporting, the sample size needed to be large as well.

Target Population

The target population of the Farm Environmental Management Survey consisted of all active farms in Canada with sales greater than $10,000 excluding the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The population was defined by the Agriculture Division's Farm Register, which was based on the 1996 Census of Agriculture. Because of data collection constraints, farms on Indian reserves, institutional farms, community pastures, and multi-holding companies were also excluded from the survey.


The first level of stratification for the farming population was by watershed. There were 48 watersheds with significant active farming defined at the sub-basin level across Canada. The watersheds were also mapped on a provincial basis and, watersheds over lapping provincial boundaries, were assigned to the province where the centre longitude and latitude co-ordinates of the watershed was located. The population was further stratified on the basis of farm type. The broad farm type assigned by the Census of Agriculture to farms was collapsed to a maximum of six farm type groups depending on the watershed and farming activity significance. The major farm type groups defined were: crops; dairy and hogs; livestock not including dairy and hogs; fruit; vegetables; potatoes and other. Appendix 1 contains a map of Canada and the sub-basin (watershed) groups in color included in the survey. The non-color areas of the country were excluded from the survey because there was either no farming activity at all or only very marginal farming activity.

Sample allocation

The total sample size was set at 21,000 farms. Allocation proportional to size was used to allocate the sample to the strata with a minimum sample size of 50 farms per stratum.
The threshold for minimum sample size was designed to ensure broad representation of farms per stratum.

Sample Selection

A systematic random sample selection procedure was used to select the farms in each stratum. A further restriction was also used in the selection process to minimize overlap with three different farm-level surveys with the same collection period as the Farm Environment Management Survey.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The survey was conducted in March 2002. The month of March was chosen for data collection because it had the least effect on farming operations (before spring planting). The survey also tied in well with the 2001 Census of Agriculture completed in the summer of 2001. Due to time constraints, it was not possible to develop a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview data collection technique. As a result a paper and pencil telephone interview method was used to collect the data from respondents, who had received in advance a copy of the questionnaire. Due to the farmers' heightened awareness of environmental issues, the survey was well received with an overall response rate of more than 76%.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Error detection

A systematic approach was used to identify missing or incomplete data as well as to identify outliers. There were consistency and deterministic edits applied. The Ag2000 data processing system was used for editing the data and for identifying outliers.


Missing values were imputed only if available from other sources for the same farm.


Prior to estimation, the data has been edited for completeness and consistency. The data was further adjusted for outliers. Based on the clean response records the initial weights were adjusted to reflect the sample response and estimates were produced at the province and watershed levels.

Quality evaluation

The data collected from the survey was compared to the 2001 Census of Agriculture data record by record. Estimates were also compared to other comparable published estimates and analyzed by subject matter experts. The estimates at the provincial level were also validated by the provincial focal points who were involved in the design of the survey questionnaire and who are knowledgeable about the subject matter on a regional basis. Finally, the results of the survey were also compared, whenever possible, to the 1996 results of the Farm Inputs Management Survey.

Disclosure control

No micro data is released outside of Statistics Canada.

Tabular results were produced using ESTIMEX developed for Agriculture Division. The tabulation system automatically applies the Statistics Canada standard rules for confidentiality and data not satisfying the rules are suppressed automatically.

Revisions can only be approved by subject matter experts from Statistics Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Data accuracy

While non-sampling errors in the estimates are difficult to quantify, potential sampling errors introduced in the estimates can be estimated from the sample itself using a statistical measure called the coefficient of variation (CV). The CV, defined as the standard error divided by the survey estimate, is a measure of precision in relative terms and is expressed as a percentage. Over repeated surveys, 95 times out of a 100, the relative difference between a sample estimate and what would have been obtained from an enumeration of all farming operations with respect to the sample estimates would be less than twice the CV.

For level estimates, the CV is the appropriate measure of the sampling error. For proportions it is preferable to use the standard error (SE), also referred to as an absolute sampling error. In the case of the Farm Environmental Management Survey, most of the estimates deal with proportions.

Eg.: The proportion of farms storing liquid manure amongst all livestock farms. In Canada, the estimated proportion p is 14% with a standard error of 2.54. It can be deduced that the proportion of farms that do not store liquid manure is 86% and that the quality of the estimate is the same (i.e., the standard error is still 2.54). The standard error is an absolute error that applies to both the 14% and 86% estimates. The CV, being a relative error on the other hand, would be different for the two estimates. It can even appear good for one proportion (86%) and bad for the complementary proportion (14%) as shown below:

CV = 100 * 2.54/14 = 18 (for farms which store liquid manure)

CV = 100 * 2.54/86 = 3 (for farms which do not store liquid manure)

Though the quality of the estimates is the same, the CV implies that the quality of the estimated proportion of farms which store liquid manure is much lower. In this case as with all proportion estimates, the SE should be used.

The following is a suggested CV rating system for level estimates, and a standard error (SE) rating system for proportion estimates:

CV Rating

0.01% - 4.99% A -- excellent
5.0% - 9.99% B -- very good
10.0% - 14.99% C -- good
15.0% - 24.99% D -- acceptable
25.0% - 34.99% E -- use with caution
35.0% and more F -- unreliable

SE Rating

0.01% - 2.49% A -- excellent
2.5% - 4.99% B -- very good
5.0% - 7.49% C -- good
7.5% - 12.49% D -- acceptable
12.5% - 17.49% E -- use with caution
17.5% and more F -- unreliable


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