USDA Officials Fend Off Report Criticism

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Table of Contents:

  • USDA should have identified lower crop yields earlier in the growing season
  • USDA relies on both objective yield surveys and farmer surveys to reach a yield estimate
  • Poor quality of 2009 corn crop may have played a role in the large stocks swings

 

USDA officials defended their quarterly corn stocks and corn production estimates against strong industry criticism at a recent annual USDA data users meeting in Chicago.

Controversy over those recent estimates and concerns the upcoming November crop report might hold another surprise for the corn market resulted in strong attendance at the meeting, with more than 100 people turning out, including producers, grain traders and executives of major grain companies.

Attendees criticized the sharp drop in USDA’s corn production estimate, saying the agency should have identified lower crop yields earlier in the growing season with the crop developing ahead of normal.

Joseph Prusacki, director of statistics for USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service reiterated that the sharp cut in corn production reflected problems in estimating the average weight of corn kernels. The actual weight came in lower than the estimated weight used in earlier reports, helping to drive the sharp cut.

"Until we get real grain weights, it's very difficult to get a handle on the size of the crop," said Prusacki, who cited the grain-weight issue in an interview last week with Dow Jones Newswires.

Officials also noted that USDA relies on both objective yield surveys and farmer surveys to reach a yield estimate, and said farmers may have been slow to pick up on yield problems with the 2010 crop.

In response to a question, Prusacki said that nearly 91% of USDA's sample corn plots had been harvested ahead of USDA’s Oct. 8 report, a far greater percentage than before earlier reports. That early harvest would seem to diminish the potential for another big surprise in the November crop report.

 

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