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Published March 14, 2013, 11:25 AM

USDA suspends some ag reports

Potatoes and pulse crops are among industries affected.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Leaders of two regional agricultural commodity groups say the suspension of some U.S. Department of Agriculture statistical reports won’t be good for their industry.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced March 12 that it is suspending some reports, including ones on potato and pulse stocks, to save money and offset reduced federal funding.

The potato stocks report, normally issued several times a year, measures grower, processor and local dealer potato storage stocks.

The absence of the report “will add uncertainty to the market” and complicate some growers’ marketing decisions, says Carl Hoverson, a Larimore, N.D., farmer and chairman of the board of the East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association.

The Red River Valley of western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota is the nation’s leading producer of red potatoes and the only region that produces in volume for the chip, fresh, seed and process markets.

USDA also says it will suspend June on- and off-farm stocks for Austrian winter peas, chickpeas, dry peas and lentils, and July acreage forecasts for Austrian winter peas, dry edible peas and lentils

North Dakota typically ranks first nationally in both dry pea and lentil production, with Montana in second place for both crops.

The NASS reports have helped the region’s pulse industry measure its growth and chart its path forward, so their absence will be felt, says Shannon Berndt, executive director of the Northern Pulse Growers Association.

The organization, based in Bismarck, N.D., represents dry pea, lentil, chickpea, lupin and fava bean growers from Montana and North Dakota.

Pulse crops — the term generally applies to legumes used for human and livestock food — are increasingly popular in Montana, which makes the stocks and acreage forecasts even more important, Berndt says.

Other reports that NASS is suspending include:

•All non-citrus fruit, nut and vegetable forecasts and estimates.

•June rice stocks.

•All hops and hops stocks estimates.

•The July cattle inventory.

Cattle experts are divided on whether their industry will be affected substantially by the absence of the July inventory, according to published reports.

USDA says in a news release that it reviewed many factors before deciding to suspend the reports.

“The decision to suspend these reports was not made lightly, but it was nevertheless necessary, given the funding situation,” USDA says in the release.