Response rates were examined in a prospective epidemiologic study of individuals, mostly farmers, from Iowa and North Carolina seeking a pesticide applicator license during the period from 1994 through 1996. In the first year of enrollment 16,535 farmers (representing 77% of eligible farmer applicators) enrolled in the study by completing a 17-page questionnaire administered at a pesticide training session; 47% of the enrolled farmers completed and returned a much longer take-home questionnaire. The characteristics of farmers who completed only the enrollment questionnaire were quite similar to those of farmers who also completed and returned the take-home questionnaire. The most notable difference was the increased age of responders. Thus, the study population might have slightly higher cumulative farm exposures and slightly lower current farm exposures than the base population of all farmer applicators. The lack of evidence for substantial selection bias is reassuring for the Agricultural Health Study, and provides a measure of reassurance for other studies depending on the voluntary completion of self-administered questionnaires.