Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue talked over the weekend about his willingness to make changes in National Ag Statistics Service methods of crop data collection.
A Farm Journal article says during 2019 and it’s many challenges, many farmers were openly questioning the crop projections that were coming from NASS throughout the year. Perdue admits that he had some concerns about their crop reports and the survey methods NASS uses. “In fact, it was kind of paranoia in light of all the prevented planting and other kinds of things that were falling on us,” he recalled. “We got a little conspiratorial too, thinking NASS was also out to get us.” He thinks the NASS numbers that took the market by surprise last June might have been more correct than the market ultimately was in its reaction.
However, that doesn’t mean Perdue thinks the methodology for estimating crop size couldn’t be improved. “We’re going to get better,” Perdue says. “If you’ve got an idea about how we can better use electronics, or maybe an app for better surveys, we’d love to hear about it. We’re open to the kind of ideas of using modern technology to get you the best data that you can use to make plans for your farm.”
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will re-contact respondents who previously reported acreage not yet harvested in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin in the spring, once producers are able to finish harvesting remaining acres. If the newly collected data justifies any changes, NASS will update the Jan. 10 estimates in a future report. Stocks estimates are also subject to review since unharvested production is included in the estimate of on-farm stocks.
When producers were surveyed for the Crop Production 2019 Summary there was significant unharvested acreage of corn in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin; and soybean acreage not yet harvested in Michigan, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The unharvested area and expected production were included in the totals released on Jan. 10.
As a result of this work, NASS may release updated acreage, yield, production, and stocks estimates for corn and soybeans later this spring. Because farmers’ ability to complete harvest is impacted by winter weather, timing of the re-contacts and subsequent publication schedule will be announced at a later date.
The 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties and the 2019 Organic Survey are both underway now, with the National Ag Statistics Service looking for as many responses as possible.
They’d also like producers to respond online if they can. Online responses are more user-friendly, accessible on most electronic devices, and can save time by calculating totals and automatically skipping questions that don’t apply to an individual operation. “Horticulture and organic agriculture are important segments of U.S. agriculture and our economy,” says NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “When producers respond to the surveys, they’re helping associations, businesses, and policymakers advocate for their industry, influence program decisions, and educate others about the importance of these agriculture segments.”
The Census of Horticultural Specialties is conducted once every five years to give a comprehensive picture of U.S. horticulture. The deadline for responding is February fifth of 2020. The Organic Survey asks more than 22,000 U.S. producers involved in certified or transitioning to organic farming questions about 2019 production, marketing practices, income, and expenses. The deadline to return the questionnaire or answer online questions is January tenth, 2020.