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March 28
Milk Production Data Drying Up

Dairy Cows
As any other industry in the United States, the agriculture sector needs data for planning and decision-making.   The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, helps U.S. farmers with accurate statistics on a variety of agricultural products.   Recently, as a direct result of the sequestration, the NASS  had to suspend the collection and publication of 10 surveys  on data such as  catfish, cattle, potato stocks, non-citrus fruit, and milk production.   Some reports will continue to be released   and the popular Census of Agriculture will be conducted in 2012 —  but analysis for much of the voluntarily-produced data will cease for the remainder of the fiscal year.

This lack of data will hinder some agribusinesses in gaining a comprehensive look at their industries and ability to forecast the rest of their season.   Consequently, counties and states that rely on such agribusinesses may witness increased uncertainty around agricultural output trends.  For example, the suspension of the NASS milk production reports might affect states such as Wis.   As the last report from NASS on milk production for this fiscal year shows, Wisconsin is one of the major players in the milk production in the country.   The dairy industry is the largest agricultural industry in this state, with an economic impact more than twice as large as the citrus industry’s in Florida.  Without the availability of NASS reports, producers will find it more difficult to make adjustments and judge the direction of the industry.  Additionally, Wisconsin has consistently been one of most eager participants in NASS surveys, including the Census of Agriculture: 71 percent of farmers in the state returned their Census forms, well above the national average.
2013 February Milk Production at State Level
State
Milk cows (thousand heads)
Milk production per cow (pounds)
Milk production (million pounds)
Production growth, 2012-2013 (%)
2012
2013
2012
2013
2012
2013
 
WI
1,266
1,270
1,700
1,700
2,152
2,159
n.c.
CA
1,784
1,782
1,965
1,810
3,506
3,225
-8
ID
581
579
1,800
1,730
1,046
1,002
-4
MI
374
377
1,875
1,870
701
705
1
MN
465
465
1,580
1,565
735
728
-1
NY
610
610
1,730
1,695
1,055
1,034
-2
PA
541
534
1,570
1,560
849
833
-2
TX
436
435
1,835
1,740
800
757
-5
23 state total
8,513
8,500
1,780
1,722
15,153
14,638
-3
Notes: The number of milk cows includes dry cows, but excludes heifers not yet fresh.   Milk production per cow excludes milk sucked by calves.  n.c.= not comparable.  The Wis. milk production in February 2013 is not comparable with the the production in February 2012, because 2012 was a leap year and had an extra day in February.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture NASS, March 2013.
With sequestration in full force, NASS had to develop cost-saving strategies.  The suspension of these data series reflects its struggle — and the struggle of many affected agencies and programs — to uphold consistent service and simultaneously adapt to changes in funding.  The situation illustrates the relationship between availability of federal data, business-related decisions and the consequences of sequestration.

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