For anyone who has ever done livestock market reports in the media, you know how complex and how intertwined they are. What happens in one market can greatly affect all of the others (including what goes on in the grain markets), and understanding these relationships is certainly not an easy task (doing markets for Chuck back during our days at the Brownfield Network was some of the most difficult work I’ve ever done!). That’s why during the recent Farm Foundation webinar on data collection, the concern turned to how USDA might be facing budget cuts to some of its reports, including those in the livestock sector.
“They’re not sexy,” said Jim Robb, the Senior Agricultural Economist and Director at the Livestock Marketing Information Center. “I think that compared to the Census of Agriculture, [which is not targeted] and you can explain to a bureaucrat or politician and put in a rather concise package, this is a whole array of market reports that really is much harder to explain in a simplistic context, and that contributes to why these are being targeted.”
Robb went on to point out that too many reports are not mandatory, and thus, at risk in the budget. And losing these reports, many a monthly or quarterly update on the annual report, would leave too big of a gap in information. “Annual is not satisfactory in an industry that is biologically based,” he said.
Robb made a final, compelling argument for why the government needs to keep many of the reports. “Quality data do not magically occur. This is a classical public good. We cannot just do random reports and expect markets to function effectively.” He encouraged private companies, government officials, and commodity groups to lobby for these reports to be continued. He echoed what some other speakers on the Farm Foundation webinar said that while some commodity groups could provide the information, it would not be the unbiased and trusted source USDA continues to be.
You can here more of what Robb had to say here: Jim Robb, LMIC during Farm Foundation Webinar on Data Collection
Plus, his slide show to go along with the audio is available here.
And you can hear the entire hour-long Farm Foundation webinar here:
Farm Foundation Webinar on Data Collection