Tuesday 20 February 2018

NASS Reduces Agricultural Estimation Programs

The USDA released a report last month that has garnered little attention. The agency made an announcer to cut several of its research reports.

The annoucment from the National Agricultural Satistics Service (the USDA’s statisical research unit) stated that the following programs would be cut:

  • 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

NASS also reported it will make available similar data either less frequently or within the every 5-year Census of Agriculture.

The decision to cut these programs has left many worried. There are concerns about what other programs the agency could cut based on cold math, instead of the value added by these reports. The Atlantic noted that these reports serve a vital role in develop information about nutrition, food availability, and composition of foods.

For decades, USDA has converted information about food availability to nutrient availability in a continuous series dating back to 1909. This is the data set I use to explain how calories in the food supply have increased to today’s 3,900 per person per day from 3,200 in 1980 — an increase of 700 calories per day exactly in parallel with rising rates of obesity.

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