July 24, 2014

How Does USDA Compile Acreage and Planting Data?

Each year – the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistic Service releases two official reports dedicated to corn and soybean crop acreage in the United States. There is a third - usual - update of the figures - too. The first report is a survey only report called Prospective Plantings. It is filed at the end of March. This is followed by the Acreage report at the end of June. There is also a potential update to the figures released in the October Crop Production report. The update - says Chief of the Crops Branch for USDA NASS Lance Honig – incorporates the acreage figures farmers file with the Farm Service Agency - or FSA

Lance Honig 1

The FSA numbers do not capture all the acres sown in the United States - however - they are a good guide post. The June Acreage report is a bit more encompassing. NASS directly contacts more than 70,000 farmers and asks them what they have planted - and what they still expect to plant. It combines these results with a second area based survey. NASS looks at 11,000 sites to see what has been sown. Honig says that’s like asking an additional 40,000 farmers what they planted. It makes the NASS figures the best available - he says - even if some point to other differing sources of information

Lance Honig 2

This year – USDA NASS calculates farmers have sown 91.6-million acres of corn and 84.8-million acres of soybeans. The corn acreage is down about four percentage points from last year and the soybean acreage is up 10-percent.

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Conservation Compliance Reminder For Farmers

USDA wants to remind farmers and ranchers about the changes through the 2014 Farm Bill requiring them to have a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form on file. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says it’s important for farmers and ranchers who take the right steps to conserve valuable farm and natural resources to have AD-1026 forms on file at their local Farm Service Agency office to ensure they remain eligible for crop insurance support. The form must be filed by June 1, 2015. For the revised form – visit www.fsa.usda.gov.

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North Dakota Farmers Union and North Dakota Corn Growers File Comments On Rail Service

North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) and the North Dakota Corn
Growers Association (NDCGA) recently filed comments with the Surface Transportation
Board (STB) on rate case complaint procedures, especially procedures to challenge the
rates railroads charge for grain transportation. They joined 23 other organizations in filing
the comments; the largest combined filing by farm organizations in years.
“Our filing, in part, is to confirm that grain producers have the legal right to file rate
complaints against railroads and that those complaints won’t be dismissed,” said NDFU
President Mark Watne. “Farmers bear the cost of poor rail service and rate increases,
just like elevators and other grain shippers.”

Producers are still very concerned about the ability and willingness of BNSF and CP to
deliver last year’s crop to market in time for this year’s harvest, said Tom Lilja, executive
director of NDCGA. “Timely corn deliveries are needed for ethanol production and for
feedlots supporting livestock and meat production,” he said. “Thousands of shipments
are behind schedule. Harvest and planting can’t wait for railroads to resolve their service
problems.”

The farm group leaders say many shippers are reluctant to complain to regulators for
fear that their current and future requests for rail service will not be met or will be further
delayed. “We are in a captive shipper situation,” said Watne. “We have few railroad
options to deliver our grain to market and competitive remedies generally do not exist.”
“When shippers and producers are captive to a single railroad,” added Lilja, “current law
states that rail carriers must establish rates that are reasonable. It’s time that the STB
revisit policies that have left us defenseless against market dominant railroads.”
With today’s major railroads enjoying “revenue adequacy,” any increase in rail rates
should have to be justified, said Watne and Lilja, and efforts made to develop more rail
to alleviate the situation in the future.

Other organizations joining in the filing were: National Farmers Union and state Farmers
Union organizations (MN, MT, SD, WI), National Corn Growers Association and state
Corn Growers associations (MN, NE, SD), Alliance for Rail Competition, Colorado Wheat
Administrative Committee, Idaho Barley Commission, Idaho Grain Producers
Association, Idaho Wheat Commission, Montana Wheat & Barley Committee, Nebraska
Wheat Board, Oklahoma Wheat Commission, Oregon Wheat Commission, South
Dakota Wheat Commission, Texas Wheat Producers Board, Washington Grain
Commission, Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission, and USA Dry Pea & Lentil
Council.

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