Some USDA reports vital to dairy producers could be on the budgetary chopping block. A recent Farm Foundation webinar featured several speakers from the federal government, private industry and commodity groups discussing how to head off cuts to many market reports.Jim Robb, the senior agricultural economist and director at the Livestock Marketing Information Center, told the panel that the real problem is that livestock reports, in particular, are not sexy and hard to explain to the average person, including lawmakers who will be voting on funding for these programs.
“I think that compared to the Census of Agriculture, [which is not targeted] and you can explain to a bureaucrat or politician and put in a rather concise package, this is a whole array of market reports that really is much harder to explain in a simplistic context, and that contributes to why these are being targeted,” Robb said.
Robb pointed out that information from National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) to produce dairy disposition and income reports is very cumbersome and complex and could not be accurately done without the information now coming from the USDA. He continued that too many reports are not mandatory, and thus, at risk in the budget.
And losing these reports, many a monthly or quarterly update on the annual report, would leave too big of a gap in information. “Annual is not satisfactory in an industry that is biologically based,” he said.
Robb made a final, compelling argument for why the government needs to keep many of the reports. “Quality data do not magically occur. This is a classical public good. We cannot just do random reports and expect markets to function effectively.”
He encouraged private companies, government officials, and commodity groups to lobby for these reports to be continued.
He echoed what some other speakers on the Farm Foundation webinar said – that while some commodity groups could provide the information, it would not be the unbiased and trusted source USDA continues to be.
Click here to hear more of what Robb had to say. PD
—From World Dairy Diary