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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Final Days of the USDA Report Data

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The Final Days of the USDA Report Data
Mark Schleusener, Illinois State Statistician - USDA NASS

Tuesday the Department of Agriculture will release one of its most anticipated reports of the year. It began collecting data from farmers at the beginning of this month. Todd Gleason tells the story on how the crop acreage data is compiled, encrypted and transferred to Washington, D.C.

USDA contacts more than 80,000 farmers across the…
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USDA contacts more than 80,000 farmers across the United States in March. It asks them a series of questions. One in the series is about which crops and how many acres of each they expect to plant this season. The agency sends all those farmers a letter to do this. Those not responding get a phone call, and then if they still don’t respond receive a face-to-face visit. The collection was completed Wednesday March 18th. Last Friday the Illinois and Missouri National Agricultural Statistics Service staffs, if the schedule went as Mark Schleusener expected, should have been reviewing the information.

Schleusener :49 …and the report comes out March 31.

Quote Summary - The last few days before publication there is an analysis period. Friday morning we are going to look at a balance sheet. We’ll add up all the corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, etcetera, and CRP. In Illinois the total is pretty constant across years with the mix of crop acres changing from one year to the next. So, we’ll make estimates on acreage in each, add them up, and compare it to previous years to see if the sum of the parts makes sense. We’ll do that Friday morning and then submit our estimates in an encrypted file to our Washington, D.C. headquarters. There will be more analysis done under secure conditions and the report comes out March 31.

This analysis is done by National Agricultural Statistic Service staff. Schleusener says the staff is primarily gifted in two area; statistics and agriculture. And he says the sum of those two qualifications is what’s required to do a good job for NASS. Schleusener serves at the NASS Illinois State Statistician.

Schleusener :29 …makes sure we don’t go in that direction.

Quote Summary - So, we are looking at what the number shows. What comes out of the computer, and how that compares to previous surveys and other factors. For instance, this balance sheet approach is a way to make sure we don’t go off-the-rails by being a little bit too high on each crop and a lot too high overall. The balance sheet makes sure we don’t go in that direction.

It gives the analysts a chance to see errors before the Prospective Plantings figures are reported up the chain or out the door. The Prospective Plantings report will be released in Washington, D.C. at noon eastern time Tuesday March 31, 2015.