Modeling and Simulation

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

USDA Activity-based Costing Data Collection Sampling Methodology

Project Details

Assess data needs, quantify variables that affect time estimates for delivering NRCS programs, and determine sample locations and number that will yield statistically relevant summary information.


In 2006, NRCS conducted an Activity Based Costing (ABC) exercise surveying 100% of the user population using a web-based tool. This assessment generated a massive amount of data from across 3000 counties, among 27 programs and 40 core products. The data was used to develop cost program models and allocation formulas to aid in decisions on how to appropriately distribute budget and program monies across the 50 states. This census data served as baseline data for the agency. Delta Decisions used the data to develop a statistical methodology for collecting data in future ABC assessments. The purpose of our engagement was to minimize the data collection burden while maintaining the validity of the data at the sub-state level.


We provided guidance on how to prepare for and conduct future ABC data collection assessments. Specifically, Delta Decisions addressed the concern of how to determine an optimal sample data collection structure for the next NRCS ABC effort. We also utilized our methodology to ensure the resulting data took into account the significant variability of conditions that state and service center specialists deal with on an annual basis. Utilizing SAS, we reviewed, cleaned, and generated descriptive statistics on the census data, which then allowed us to determine the most appropriate statistically-based methodology for meeting the client’s objective. The customized methodology addressed specific NRCS challenges (i.e., the unique objective, constraints and assumptions associated with the goal) and was derived as a result of understanding the meaning of the data, the process for collecting the data and potential future uses of the data. The results of this project added a data-driven level of planning that was not previously used by decision makers. Delta Decisions was the Prime contractor for this effort.

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