Industry groups urge USDA to reverse cancellation of critical livestock reporting

By Staff
4 Min Read

Dive Brief:

  • Farm industry groups are pushing back against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for canceling several reports to cut costs.

  • Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, on Tuesday urged the USDA to reconsider its decision, saying in a letter the discontinuation of critical reports undermines the department’s commitments to market fairness and transparency.

  • The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is cutting back on reports, including the July Cattle Report, Cotton Objective Yield Survey, and county-level crop and livestock estimates, starting in the 2024 production year. The agency said its decision last week “was not made lightly,” but necessary given “appropriated budgetary levels.”

Dive Insight:

The surprising move by the USDA received almost immediate backlash from industry groups such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, who said the reports “provide critical data and the decision to end them is completely misguided.”

Among the reports getting cut, the USDA’s July Cattle Report is perhaps the most notable. Livestock producers and researchers have come to rely on the biannual cattle reports, published in January and July, for a comprehensive view of the nation’s herds.

“Eliminating the mid-year report puts the market in the dark for the second half of the year, removes market transparency and increases market volatility,” Duvall said in a letter to the USDA. “Data will only be available to those who can afford to collect it, further threatening competition in the packing sector.”

Other affected reports, such as the Cotton Objective Yield Survey, are also expected to raise uncertainty in key growing seasons to the detriment of farmers, ranchers and stakeholders. The discontinuation of county-level crop and livestock estimates is set to impact insurance programs and research from land grant institutions, placing the U.S. further behind competing countries in terms of public agricultural research, Duvall said in the letter. 

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service last week notified the public of its decision, saying it “has and will continue to review its estimating programs using criteria focused on the needs of its mission and customers to prioritize budget decisions.”

This comes as lawmakers work to move a farm bill proposal out of committee by the end of May. House Agricultural Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson on Tuesday signaled that he would not make cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, a topic that has stalled passage of the bill for more than a year.

NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane said the move to cut critical reporting was “disingenuous” and went against the USDA’s commitments to transparency.

“While it may be politically expedient to blame appropriators in Congress for today’s decision, cattle producers know better than to believe discontinuing a handful of reports will result in substantive cost savings for the Department,” Lane said in a statement last week.

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