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USDA’s decision to end some crop and livestock reports criticized 
By Michele F. Mihaljevich
Indiana Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has canceled or discontinued some crop and livestock reports for budgetary reasons.
The July cattle report was canceled, NASS said. All county estimates for crops and livestock were discontinued, as was the cotton objective yield survey. The agency announced the decision last month.
The decision to cancel or discontinue the reports has drawn the ire of more than 70 lawmakers who signed a letter calling for USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to reconsider the changes. Agricultural organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) have also criticized the decision.
To account for the fiscal year 2024 appropriated budget, NASS has reviewed its operations to find efficiencies and cost savings, David Knopf, a regional director for NASS, told Farm World. NASS made the decision to cancel and discontinue the reports as a result, he said.
Knopf is head of the NASS Eastern Mountain Regional Field Office, which includes Kentucky and Tennessee.
The decision to discontinue any data program is not made lightly, he said.
“I understand how important this data is for farmers and all other data users,” Knopf noted. “The decision to discontinue the reports was made after much consideration, including the effect it would have on those that depend on the data. Unfortunately, actions were needed to stay within appropriations.
“It is our (NASS) function within USDA to provide statistics about agriculture so it is disappointing when a report can’t be published. At the same time, I recognize NASS needs to be responsible with the money that is appropriated and operate within that budget.”
The July cattle report details the U.S. cattle inventory by class and would have been published July 19, he said. NASS also publishes a cattle report in January. The cotton survey was conducted to collect data for production estimates, Knopf said. Production reports will be published as scheduled because there are other surveys that feed into the production estimates, he added.
County estimates for major crops and livestock include planted and harvested acres, yield and production. They would have been published on various dates beginning in December and continuing through May 2025.
The Farm Service and Risk Management agencies collect acreage data and yield information from producers who participate in farm programs and purchase crop insurance, Knopf said. As for the livestock reports, he said he’s not aware of any other source of that information by county except in the Census of Agriculture.
The May 3 letter sent to Vilsack criticizing the agency’s decision was signed by 73 lawmakers. In it, the legislators urged Vilsack to allow the reports to continue.
“The reports slated for discontinuation are highly valuable to the entire U.S. agricultural sector, and particularly for cattle, cotton and grain,” the letter stated. “The reports offer a great deal of transparency and market anticipation for the entire agricultural sector.”
The letter said the July cattle report, for example, “offers producers and market analysts key insights into herd size, calf crop and heifer retention, all of which are paramount to making sound business and marketing decisions.”
The cotton survey reduces uncertainty associated with NASS production estimates, which allows markets and price discovery to function more efficiently, the letter said. The county crops and livestock estimates are a highly valuable dataset which is not only used for market projection, but also to estimate economic impact and losses associated with natural disasters, according to the letter.
“While we recognize that NASS has seen a modest year-over-year appropriations reduction, we hold that the costs to the industry will be more adverse than the cost-savings NASS may realize through cessation of these reports,” the letter said.
AFBF said it is disappointed in the NASS decision to discontinue the reports and called on the agency to reconsider.
AFBF president Zippy Duvall, in a separate letter to USDA, discussed the importance of the surveys, especially the July cattle report.
The two cattle reports regarding the total U.S. cattle inventory gave “farmers, ranchers, researchers and other data users a full picture of supplies in the U.S. cattle sector at the beginning and in the middle of each year,” he wrote. “This allows for a fair assessment of the cattle market for the next six months. Eliminating the mid-year report puts the market in the dark for the second half of the year, removes market transparency and increases market volatility.”
The loss of the cotton survey may also increase the level of uncertainty throughout the summer and early fall for those markets, Duvall said. The elimination of county yield estimates will undercut the research upon which risk management programs – including crop insurance – are based, he pointed out.
Knopf said though NASS is making these adjustments for the current fiscal year, the agency will continue to re-evaluate its operations and programs to make strategic long-term budget decisions.
“We know a wide range of customers depend on NASS data,” he said. “Though we are discontinuing select programs to ensure we are operating within our appropriated budget, we are still able to provide strong data that achieves NASS’s core mission in service to U.S. agriculture.”