(Photo: Dani O’Brien /

By Valley Ag Voice Staff

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service hosted a webinar on May 8 to discuss recently discontinued data collection programs and reports, including the July Cattle Inventory, Cotton Objective Yield Survey, and county yield and production estimates for crops and livestock in 2024.

Several 2024 data collection programs were canceled as a result of a roughly 11% congressional budget cut after the appropriation was approved seven months into the federal fiscal year. In March, NASS received a $187.5 million budget for 2024, down from $211.1 million in 2023.

With the loss of the July Cattle Inventory report ranchers will resort to making decisions based on private estimates and without updated information, adding more volatility to an unpredictable cattle market.

Further, county estimates are important determinants in the disbursement of agricultural support payments to farmers and ranchers. According to NASS, county-level estimates serve the agricultural industry as a whole by pinpointing shifts and concentrations, determining sale areas, and providing insight into the current market.

For government agencies, county crop estimates are utilized to calculate Federal Crop Insurance Corporation counts and other crop program payments.

During the webinar Troy Joshua, director of the statistics division at NASS, explained that restoring the July inventory would cost approximately $550,000 while restoring the county estimates would take roughly $7 million.

“We are in a data-producing business,” Joshua said. “If the funding was restored, or if the funding is restored, we will definitely bring the program back because we have heard from our data users how valuable this information is to them.”

On May 3, bipartisan members of the Senate and House penned a letter urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to implore the USDA to restore the discontinued reports.

“The [Agricultural Statistics Board] identified budgetary constraints as justification for the decision to discontinue publication of these reports,” the letter said. “While we recognize that NASS has seen a modest year-over-year appropriations reduction, we hold that the costs to industry will be more adverse than the cost savings NASS may realize through cessation of these reports.”

During the webinar, Crops Branch Chief at NASS Lance Honig reiterated that the department realizes the importance of the reports but must adapt to specified funding levels.

“We certainly recognize the value of these data products but had to make some hard decisions to ensure our spending remains within our appropriated total,” Honig said. “We also understand that some alternative data sources are not as robust and not accessible in the same manner as the discontinued products.”

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