Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 13, 2013

Limited milk reports restored

BY M. L. JOHNSON The Associated Press

---- — MILWAUKEE — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statistical arm will restore some agricultural reports it had suspended because of automatic federal budget cuts after farmers and others in the dairy industry said the information was crucial to their business.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service keeps tabs on a wide range of agricultural industries that generate billions of dollars for the U.S. economy, and its reports influence the price and supply of many products that end up on dinner plates. Farmers use the reports to decide how much to produce, and food processors and traders look to them to determine when to buy and sell.

The agency said last month that it would suspend reports covering at least 10 agricultural products — ranging from chickpeas to cattle — because of $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts going into effect. It now says it will provide milk production reports for the dairy industry, but other reports will not be restored.

The milk production estimates are used to set prices. NASS had planned to suspend monthly reports running through September, along with an annual one due April 25. But the agency has backtracked, saying it would provide the monthly and annual reports as previously scheduled.

However, the reports will use limited data.

Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, said his organization and the 30,000 dairy farmers it represents appreciate the fact that NASS found a way to provide some monthly information on milk production.

“What everyone in the industry is wondering is how accurate it will be?” he said.

NASS now plans to put the monthly reports together using information provided by government agencies, agricultural cooperatives and other organizations. It will not do two quarterly surveys of individual milk producers, as it has in the past.