A new report released today by the American Farm Bureau Federation provides an in-depth examination into the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) survey collection and data reporting issues. It also provides recommendations to improve accuracy and farmer confidence in the survey results.
The USDA-NASS Working Group, comprised of 10 farmer members, spent more than four months evaluating the process and methodologies USDA-NASS uses to put farmer survey data into monthly reports.
“While NASS may have a gold standard reputation for agriculture statistics globally, U.S. farmers’ confidence in their reports has unfortunately declined,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Large changes, especially the last 2 years due to adverse weather events, in estimates of planted area, crop yields and inventory levels have caused wild swings in markets and left farmers questioning the agency’s ability to respond quickly to rapidly changing conditions on the ground. We hope the work done by this group will provide a framework for USDA to make timelier adjustments to these key reports and restore trust in the data we’ve relied upon for so long. NASS has been responsive to feedback in the past and we are committed to working with the agency to achieve these new goals.”
Key recommendations of the report include:
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.
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.
Read the full AFBF USDA-NASS Working Group Report.