Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

American Farm Bureau Federation’s USDA-NASS Working Group Report

Market Intel / January 21, 2021

Credit: United Soybean Board / CC BY 2.0 

To help rebuild farmers’ trust in USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, a farmer-led working group put together by the American Farm Bureau has developed a series of recommendations for the agency. The recommendations focus on technology improvements and better communication from the agency, but the validity of the agency’s reports hinges on farmers’ full participation in NASS’ data collection efforts. The more robust the data, the more reliable the reports.

The Farm Bureau USDA-NASS Working Group Recommendations

Increase transparency with the agricultural community

NASS should help farmers understand how the agency arrives at the numbers reported and provide clarity on the relationship between aggregate, state, county and field-level reported numbers. If the numbers are not the most current due to a market event that occurred after the data collection period, NASS should note that. NASS should also make a special note when major revisions are made to previously reported estimates. Consideration should also be given to adding flexibility on report release date due to natural disasters, e.g., following a significant weather event NASS may delay the release of an economically significant report. 

Accelerate new and innovative technology adoption

At a time when faster computers, speedier algorithms and access to better data and proprietary models give agricultural industry stakeholders, traders and the investment community a competitive advantage in commodity market analysis, NASS should have the best resources, information, data, software, hardware, talent and networks so that it can accelerate the development of innovative and more timely survey instruments and analysis for the benefit of the agricultural community.

Increase collaboration with Farm Bureau to accomplish shared goals

Farm Bureau is committed to being a partner for NASS in a variety of ways, including working to encourage farmers’ accurate and timely participation in NASS’ data collection efforts, encouraging lawmakers to provide NASS the funding it needs to upgrade its technology and hire and retain top-notch staff, participating in NASS advisory groups and continuing to consistently attend NASS data user meetings.

Strengthen NASS for U.S. agriculture

The implementation of the above recommendations will go a long way toward improving the great work already being done by NASS and strengthen the agency’s position as a reliable collector and distiller of agricultural data, which will benefit farmers, ranchers and the industry as a whole. 

John Newton, Ph.D.
Chief Economist
(202) 406-3729
Shelby Myers
(202) 406-3724

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