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NASS offers information on discontinued programs

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

At the beginning of April, the U.S. Department (USDA) of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) announced it will discontinue the July Cattle Report and Cotton Objective Yield Survey, as well as all county estimates for crops and livestock beginning with the 2024 production year, due to recent budget cuts. 

The announcement sent a shockwave through the agriculture industry, which uses the data for various purposes. 

On April 9, the same day as the NASS announcement, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane stated, “It is disingenuous for the same agency which touts its commitment to transparency in livestock markets to arbitrarily cease publication of reports which provide just that.”

“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 added.

The agencies admit the decision was not taken lightly, and to ease concerns, have hosted several data users’ meetings over the past month. 

On May 8, the USDA Agricultural Statistics Board (ASB) hosted an online meeting to spotlight available data for the recently discontinued programs.

Available data 

ASB Director Troy Joshua noted NASS has related data points available, although, he admitted, this data does not replace that of the discontinued programs. 

He pointed out NASS will still release the January Cattle Report once a year, as well as monthly reports regarding cattle on feed; milk production, including total number of milk cows; livestock slaughter and end-of-months stocks for meat and dairy products.

“We also publish the Census of Agriculture, which is the most complete assessment of the agriculture industry,” he said. “This information is published at the state, county and national levels.”   

In addition, ASB Chair Lance Honig noted there is other data available for county crop estimates through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Risk Management Agency (RMA). 

“For FSA, part of the work they do comes in contact with a great deal of information about crop acreage – in particular, producers who want to participate in any of the programs administered by FSA and others at USDA,” Honig explained. “They are required to report and certify acreage planted information for various crops.” 

He directed listeners to the FSA website, where the agency will post Excel spreadsheet updates throughout the growing season on this data at the county level.

“Additionally, RMA is responsible for overseeing and administering crop insurance programs at USDA, and as a result of their work, have a great deal of data and information about crops grown and insured across the U.S.,” Honig said. 

“These are both great sources of information we believe are out there to utilize in lieu of the county estimates data NASS was publishing,” he added.

Budget cuts

During the webinar, Honig reiterated the need for the department to cut these programs due to lack of funding.

He explained, “In mid-march, NASS received our appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 – $187.5 million dollars – which is pretty far below the president’s budget for FY 2024 and well below our actual appropriations for FY 2023. Combine this with increased costs and an implemented pay increase, we had a fairly significant budget gap that we needed to account for as we move through the remainder of FY 2024.” 

Honig further explained the department began by taking a critical look at internal operations to find any cost savings they could, including things like reducing travel and training expenses, reanalyzing direct interactions with producers through conducting surveys and virtually ending all efforts underway to modernize aging systems. 

“We did everything we could to not have a direct impact on our customers, but unfortunately, at the end of the day, that in itself was not enough,” he said. 

Therefore, on April 9, the agencies announced the elimination of the July Cattle Report, the Cotton Objective Yield Survey and all county estimates for crops and livestock.

Reversal request

Since this announcement, industry groups including NCBA have urged the agencies to reverse their decision and continue these programs.

On May 3, U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry; Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) penned a letter with 70 of their colleagues to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to continue publishing the reports. 

“Droughts, wildfires, sky-high inflation, market fluctuation and input costs have all driven producers’ risk to an all-time high,” said Mann “USDA’s decision to cancel the July Cattle Report and discontinue the Cotton Yield Objective Survey and all county estimates for crops and livestock only exacerbates this risk.”

“Farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers in the Big First and across the country are doing their best as they bear the weight of feeding, clothing and fueling the world,” Mann continued. “Secretary Vilsack should immediately reverse this decision and give our producers at least some of the certainty they desperately need and deserve.”

The letter has garnered support from NCBA, the National Grain and Feed Association, the National Cotton Council, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Livestock Marketing Association, Beef Alliance and the Livestock Marketing and Dealers Association. 

“The data provided by USDA NASS in these canceled reports is vitally important to cattle producers, especially in this current period of the cattle cycle,” said NCBA President and Wyoming Rancher Mark Eisele. “USDA’s decision to cut the July Cattle Report and county estimates will only fuel more uncertainty in the market. NCBA thanks Mann, Costa and Moran for leading a bipartisan group of lawmakers in urging USDA to reverse this decision.”

“AFBF is disappointed in NASS’ decision to drop these crucial reports,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “County crop and yield estimates provide important data for markets and research, and the decision to cancel the July Cattle Report runs counter to USDA’s previous commitments to improve fair, competitive and transparent markets. We appreciate Moran, Mann and Costa for their continued support to reverse NASS’ decision.”

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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