Sector News

Crucial crop reports on track despite COVID-19

March 24, 2020
Food & Drink

As the winter wheat crop begins to emerge from dormancy and farmers prepare to take to the fields to plant the 2020 spring wheat crop, bakers, millers and grain merchants eagerly awaited the release on March 31 of the US Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings report and the resumption on April 6 of the USDA’s weekly Crop Progress and Condition Report.

These reports are prepared by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which stated on March 20 that even amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it expects to issue its reports on schedule.

NASS also said it was continuing to collect data for all other upcoming reports, asking farmers and ranchers to complete their surveys online, if they don’t already respond that way. To protect the health and safety of producers, partners and employees, NASS said it has suspended in-person data collection at least until April 3.

“We are making every effort to produce the US crop, livestock and economic statistics that the nation counts on,” said Hubert Hamer, administrator at NASS. “But to do that responsibly, we are following guidance to slow the spread of the coronavirus and to protect the health and safety of producers and employees. It is now more important than ever for everyone who receives a survey to complete it promptly online and encourage others to do the same.”

Mr. Hamer said online response is faster and more convenient for producers. Returning the completed questionnaire by phone or US mail is acceptable, he said, but mail responses require in-office personnel to open, scan, and check in each form.

“If we are able to collect enough data over the coming weeks, and conditions are such that estimates can be established and released, we will continue to publish these important reports on schedule,” Mr. Hamer said. “The data in the reports are indicators of the nation’s feed and food supply.”

Mr. Hamer added that to respond online at agcounts.usda.gov, producers will need their unique 17-digit survey code from the questionnaire or letter received in the mail. Both the online questionnaire and phone data collection interviews are secure. All information submitted to NASS is confidential, only used for statistical purposes, and published in aggregate form, as required by federal law so that no individual or farm information can be identified.

Mr. Hamer said NASS will continue to evaluate all program operations as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

Any changes to the NASS report schedule will be announced on nass.usda.gov and on Twitter @usda_nass.

By Jay Sjerven

Source: Food Business News

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