USDA halts cattle, milk, rice reports as government cuts budget

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it will halt some government reports including milk production, rice supply and cattle herds because of federal spending cuts known as sequestration.

Reports will no longer be issued on catfish and trout, potato stockpiles, non-citrus fruits, nuts and vegetables, hops stockpiles, mink, Austrian peas and lentils, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said today in an e-mailed statement. Also eliminated will be seasonal reports on rice stockpiles in June, cattle in July and the monthly tally of domestic milk supply and demand, the agency said.

Eliminating milk reports that have been published monthly since 1964 will make it more difficult for producers and processors to get data on changes in output or consumption that the industry uses to make business decisions, said Bill Brooks, a dairy economist INTL FCStone Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri. Analysts will have a more difficult time estimating prices without the information, he said.

“The monthly milk-production report is a key piece of information that the industry looks at to analyze overall milk supply,” Brooks said in a telephone interview.

Mike Miller, who’s produced the USDA monthly milk production reports for the past five years, said he’s not yet heard whether the cuts will be permanent. The information supplied by industry sources probably won’t be as comprehensive or as timely as the government data, he said by telephone.

“You could piece the information together, but you don’t have one place to go to say this is the number,” Miller said.

Miller said he is still employed by the USDA and has other duties, including the government census of agriculture that’s released every five years and is currently being compiled. The milk report that’s set to be released March 19 may be the last one published, he said.

“No one I talk to knows” what’s going to happen after the end of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, Miller said. “I’m certainly disappointed, and I hate to see it go away. Hopefully it will be brought back because it’s an important report.”

Bloomberg News

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