Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reportless on the farm...  

Even as confidence in NASS reports falters, budget cuts could be adding to the woes of the agency. So much so that smaller commodities may have to count themselves, so to speak.
In light of funding reductions in fiscal year (FY) 2011 and the likelihood of additional reductions in FY 2012, NASS conducted deliberate reviews of all programs against mission- and user-based criteria, aimed at finding cost savings and forward-thinking business efficiencies so that key timely, accurate and useful data remains available in service to agriculture. As a result, the agency is discontinuing or reducing a wide range of agricultural survey programs. The decision to eliminate or reduce these reports was not made lightly, but it was nevertheless necessary, given the funding situation. Because of the timing of the agency’s survey work during the coming year, these decisions are necessary now. These programs are:
  • Annual Reports on Farm Numbers, Land in Farms and Livestock Operations - Eliminate
  • Catfish and Trout Reports – Eliminate all
  • Annual Floriculture Report - Eliminate
  • January Sheep and Goat Report - Eliminate
  • Chemical Use Reports – Reduce frequency of commodity coverage
  • July Cattle Report - Eliminate
  • Distiller Co-Products for Feed Survey - Cancel
  • Annual Bee and Honey Report - Eliminate
  • Annual Hops Production Report - Eliminate
  • Monthly Potato Stocks Report – Reduce from monthly to quarterly
  • Annual Mink Report – Eliminate
  • Fruit and Vegetable in-season forecast and estimates– Reduce from monthly and quarterly to annual report
  • Nursery Report – Eliminate
  • Rice Stocks June and September reports - Eliminate but continue January, March and August reports
Recognizing the importance of NASS’s data products and services to U.S. agriculture, NASS will make available similar data either less frequently or within the every 5-year Census of Agriculture. The next census will be conducted beginning January 2013 to reflect activities in the 2012 calendar year. [More]
The irony here is these may be the more accurate of all the reports the agency does. But it also presages what could happen to even major commodities.

The most interesting aspect of this announcement is if it will come true.

Many of the reports being cut today, including those on mink, catfish, trout, flowers and honey, were eliminated during an earlier round of budget tightening in 1982. A year later, most of the reports were restored by Congress because of appeals from farm groups.
William E. Kibler, the administrator of the statistics service at the time, said the experience showed how hard it was to eliminate a government program, no matter how small the constituency.
“The commodity organizations out there are pretty strong,” he said. “These congressmen up on the Hill say, ‘$50,000 is not much, let’s give it to them.’ ”[More]
Coupling this with the apparent ineffectiveness of the AFBF influence during the "secret" farm bill debate, and one begins to wonder if the vaunted ag lobby isn't losing steam. At the least, it would appear commodity organizations like the NCGA have taken over the helm.

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