Growers and market analysts alike were left scratching their heads after USDA released their crop production report last week, calling for larger than expected corn and soybean crops. Drawing particular attention was the apparent disconnect between crop conditions reported as lower than year ago but projected yields above this time in 2016.
The man behind those numbers, Lance Honig, chief of crops for USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service (NASS),pointed out on the AgriTalk Radio show that crop conditions and crop progress are two different reports, collected by different sets of people asking very different questions.
“Crop condition information comes from a list of reporters that provide that information to us,” said Honig. “We’re looking at a lot of county extension agents, some other USDA employees and kind of a mix of folks, typically not farmers. Ad what we’re asking them to tell us is…how would you rate the overall condition of the various crops across your county. That’s a little bit different question than asking somebody what do you expect your yields to be.”
He said for this August report, more weight is given to farmer reports than enumerator surveys because there are often no ears to count.
“As a general rule, the earlier in the season it is the more weight is going to shift to the farmer reports,” Honig explained. “If the crop’s not as mature, that means from an objective yield standpoint, hopefully we’re counting ears. We might be counting stalks. But even more important, when it comes to determining an ear weight, we’re going to have virtually no actual ear weight to base that on. So we’re going to shift a lot more value to what the farmers are telling us.”
Honig said more than 21,500 farmers were surveyed for the August crop production report.
Listen to the entire AgriTalk interview by clicking on the player above.