Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Cash-poor USDA again drops cattle inventory report

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has suspended its semi-annual U.S. cattle inventory report for a second year on Tuesday due to budget cuts that also affect certain rice, fish, fruit and vegetable estimates.

“The decision to suspend these reports was not made lightly, but it was nevertheless necessary, given the funding situation,” said USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in a statement.

USDA said because of automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, “we are not able to reinstate the programs that were suspended in March” in the new fiscal year.

The July cattle report was regarded as the broadest-reaching of the reports, although many of the more obscure reports dealing with niche crops are also missed by participants in those markets.

The more than 2,000 U.S. craft beer producers, for example, have said they have been disadvantaged by the loss of estimates for hops, a critical brewing ingredient.

With the suspension, USDA will report on cattle numbers once in 2014, in a report scheduled for January.

Also suspended for a second year are the following:

  • the June rice stocks report;
  • potato stocks reports;
  • all hops and hops stocks estimates;
  • the annual mink report;
  • June reports of on- and off-farm stocks of Austrian winter peas, chickpeas, dry peas and lentils;
  • July acreage forecasts for Austrian winter peas, dry edible peas and lentils; and
  • all catfish and trout reports, including Catfish Feed Deliveries and Catfish Processing. USDA will publish its annual catfish and trout report using data collected during the census of aquaculture.

The federal government’s July cattle inventory report offers a snapshot of U.S. cattle production during the previous six months. In January, USDA reported the U.S. cattle herd at 89.3 million head, its lowest level since the early 1950s.

While some analysts and economists relied on the data for its longer-term implications for the U.S. cattle industry, it goes largely ignored by Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures traders who tend to focus on near-term fundamental market factors.

“The July cattle report will certainly be missed by the industry. But, you probably won’t hear too many loud objections since it’s largely an analysts report, unlike the monthly cattle-on-feed surveys that have great import for the markets,” Doane Advisory Services economist Dan Vaught said.

USDA said it will publish annual summaries for production of vegetables and of non-citrus fruits and nuts but will not issue forecasts, preliminary summaries or month price reports during this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. The same pattern was taken last year for those crops.

— Reporting for Reuters by Charles Abbott in Washington, D.C. Additional reporting for Reuters by Theopolis Waters in Chicago.

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