NASS agrees to restore milk production reports
Stresses it is temporary
solution through the
end of fiscal year
Dairy farmers and processors complained loudly when the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would cut monthly reports on milk production as a result of sequestration budget cuts.
Now, that outcry has caused the agency to reconsider. Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel heard Wednesday (April 3) and shared with reporters that the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) had gotten the message and would temporarily provide milk production estimates based on administrative data through the end of the government's fiscal year.
That would supply the reports through Sept. 30.
Brad Summa, Chief of Staff at NASS, said the decision was made "in response to numerous inquiries and concerns over suspension of milk production estimates."
The decision, he said, would "fill a critical void for the milk industry" and still save the agency the cost of conducting two quarterly milk production surveys.
At a March 22 meeting of the board of directors for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, members expressed dismay and disappointment that such a key piece of information for the dairy industry would disappear.
Board members John Koepke, a dairy farmer, and Mark Schleitwiler, a vice president of Bel Gioioso Cheese, both voiced concerns that the monthly milk reports were crucial to dairy business in Wisconsin.
Not having the report would be a serious concern to both dairy producers and dairy processors, the board members said.
In an email to Brancel, NASS administrators stressed that this solution is only a temporary one planned for the remainder of this fiscal year.
Summa said the reports the agency will produce through September will include milk production only and will not include numbers of cows milked or production per cow figures as the old reports did.
The agency made the decision because of concern about risk of states producing their own estimates using "differing methodologies." Summa said NASS will use consistent processes to estimate milk production across all states.
For dairy, unlike other commodities, there are a variety of well-established administrative data sources, he added.
The cuts were initially made because of the $85 billion across-the-board cuts made under sequestration that Congress failed to avert.
In addition to dairy reports, there were others that were important to Wisconsin, including a mink pelt report and a cranberry forecast.
Other reports canceled included forecasts for apples, tart cherries, sweet corn, onions, snap beans and potatoes - all crops that are important in Wisconsin.
None of those reports were restored by NASS in the decision last week.
The agency milk reports through the end of September will use information from government agencies and dairy cooperatives and there will be no quarterly surveys of dairy farmers.
Leaving those surveys out will allow NASS to do the reports without incurring any additional costs.
The reason the milk production reports could be restored, they said, was that the information was essentially already out there, being reported by governments and organizations.
There is no word yet on what the agency will do on these reports after the end of the fiscal year.