USDA: Environment Not Conducive to Public Info

John Davis

At a time when farmers rely more and more on good information, officials at the USDA worry that budget cuts are going to make their job of providing information to those farmers more difficult.

“We were being stressed right now in an environment not conducive to public information,” said Joe Prusacki, Director, Statistics Division, at the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) during a recent webinar hosted by the Farm Foundation. Prusacki said while the U.S. Congress’ joint budget committee has increased the amount of money to NASS to $158.6 million (more than the $149.5 million passed by the House and $152.6 million passed by the Senate), it’s still less than what his agency asked for and leaves them with some hard decisions about what to keep and what they’ll have to cut. He said they can either reduce the number of reports or reduce the number of inputs and sample sizes, and thus the quality and accuracy, to those reports. Neither one is a very palatable proposal for either the USDA or producers who rely on those reports. But he says there are six core reports they’ll continue no matter what: 1. the quarterly hogs and pigs survey; 2. the monthly cattle on feed survey; 3. the prospective plantings/acreage report; 4. grain stocks; 5. crop production and; 6. monthly prices.

Prusacki went on to point out that another problem NASS has is knowing who uses this data.

“With the way data are provided today via the Internet, there’s not that personal connection, and many times, we don’t know who our data users are until we have program changes,” he said. Prusacki added there is also a disconnect between providers of information to the USDA and those who use that information when NASS puts it back out for consumption. He says while producer GROUPS are interested in providing good, accurate information, individual farmers sometimes see it as an intrusion to their privacy. And that leads to lawmakers asking if his agency really needs that information and if certain programs need to exist… and thus, the budget issues NASS now faces.

You can here more of what Prusacki had to say here: Joe Prusacki, USDA NASS during Farm Foundation Webinar on Data Collection

Plus, his slide show to go along with the audio is available at this link.

And you can hear the entire hour-long Farm Foundation webinar here:
Farm Foundation Webinar on Data Collection

Audio, Farm Foundation, Markets, USDA