Fate of October Crop Production Report Ideally to be Known This Week

October 17, 2013 12:34 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Other data releases like to be delayed due to partial shutdown, but some data "holes" are expected

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The fate of the October Crop Production and Supply/Demand reports are among the first decisions awaiting officials at USDA now that the partial government shutdown has ended and and the government reopens today.

The U.S. government is reopened after a 16-day shutdown – one day before the U.S. was slated to reach its borrowing limit. Congress on Wednesday cleared, and President Obama signed, a measure (HR 2775) to reopen the government and lift the debt ceiling. Federal workers should return to work this morning, Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement. Federal workers, including about 800,000 who were furloughed due to the shutdown and those deemed essential, will receive back pay for the past 16 days. States that used their own funds to implement operations normally paid by the federal government will be reimbursed. The Senate on Wednesday night passed the bill 81-18. All of the senators who voted against it were Republicans. Before final passage, the Senate voted 83-16 to invoke cloture on the measure. Sixty votes were required; only Republicans voted no. Later Wednesday, the House cleared the bill 285-144. All 198 Democrats voted yes, along with 87 Republicans. The measure funds the government through Jan. 15 at the Fiscal 2013 post-sequestration spending level and suspends the debt limit until Feb. 7. Both chambers agreed to reconcile their budget resolutions adopted earlier this year and report by Dec. 13.

Poultry rule provision. It also includes a policy rider that would roll back USDA rules intended to strengthen the hand of chicken farmers in their dealings with poultry processors. The language is the product of a fight over regulations that the Grain Inspection Stockyard and Packers Administration (GIPSA) proposed to comply with a directive in the 2008 Farm Bill.

SNAP/Food stamps, CRP and direct payments to farmers. The budget/debt limit hike bill extends through Jan. 15 entitlements and other mandatory payments provided under the Food and Nutrition Act, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, direct payments to farmers and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments.


GMO provision not included. The measure does not continue a provision from the March continuing appropriations law that critics say would allow genetically modified organism (GMO) crops to be cultivated and sold even when courts had found they posed a potential risk to farmers of nearby crops, the environment and human health. The provision provided that in the event of a non-regulated status of a plant being invalidated or vacated, USDA could authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation or commercialization of the crop.

Now that the government is reopened, contacts advise the first task within the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) would be to determine what the status of their data gathering process is relative to the October Crop Production report. Objective yield data collection was to run through Oct. 1 or 2, with samples from that effort sent to a lab in St. Louis. One assessment to be made is determining whether or not those samples that were not processed before the shutdown started Oct. 1 and have been sitting in their shipping bags are still viable to be used or not.


Then an assessment of the farmer-survey portion of the data collection for the report will have to be made, sources advise. The surveys were mailed to farmers around the 23rd or 24th and calls from NASS to farmers likely only took place Sept. 28 and 30 before the shutdown. NASS will have to determine how many surveys they have received in the mail and how many phone interviews had been completed.

One of the key unknowns in this situation lies in the field enumerators used by NASS to gather the objective yield data. Those enumerators monitor the field plots selected throughout the growing season and when the final harvest is expected, they are to collect a final sample and also to make a determination on harvest loss. But those workers were told to cease and desist their efforts when the partial government shutdown started Oct.1.

"It’s not clear whether those enumerators followed the cease and desist instructions or not," said one source familiar with the NASS survey process. "They are contractors so it is possible that they could have kept gathering data on the expectation that when the government reopens, they can submit time sheets and get paid for their work." And, sources advise NASS should be able to make a determination on that relatively quickly.

As for the Supply/Demand report which utilizes the production data compiled by NASS in months in which NASS issues a production estimate, contacts are split on whether that report will or won’t be issued. Some sources believe it still could be issued even if the October Crop Production report will not be released. Others, however, counter that if the production update is canceled, the Supply/Demand data would likely not be published. But this remains a determination to be made, ideally sources say, yet this week.

As for other impacts, sources note the following:

Crop Progress: The next release of the report could potentially come Oct. 21 although that would be dependent on when workers actually return to the office. Should the restart of work come Thursday, some sources advise the report could conceivably be issued Oct. 21. However, the possibility still exists that the next release would not come until Oct. 28.

Contacts advise that the biggest question on whether the report would be issued Monday, Oct. 21, would be how soon the instructions on what information to gather could be sent out to those who gather the data in the field. But contacts concur that the data that would have been released Oct. 8 and 15 doesn’t exist since the information used for each weekly report is driven by the previous week’s results and no instructions went out to those gathering the data during the period the government has been shut down.

Cattle on Feed: The data for this report is geared to Oct. 1 and the data analysis typically would have been underway this week for what was to be the report’s release on Friday, Oct. 18. Most sources believe this report will be issued, but not likely on the intended release date.

Data Users Meeting: Expectations are that if the government reopens by Friday at the latest, the session in Chicago should still take place.

November Crop Production: Survey work for this report would start Oct. 23 or 24 with the objective yield data gathering and the farmer surveys mailed out about the same time. Phone survey work would be started around Oct. 31 and run for the next week. But, like with October data, there is a major question on the fate of the final harvest samples on fields that have gone through the combine during the partial government shutdown. That again goes back to the issue of whether or not field enumerators opted to continue their work despite being ordered to halt their activities.

Comments: There clearly will be a flurry of activity that awaits USDA and NASS relative to the October Crop Production and Supply/Demand reports. But officials continue to pledge that decisions on what will happen will be made as quickly as they can with a final word on at least the October reports likely to be made this week. And in the case of the weekly progress updates, there will be some data "holes."


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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