WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Mike Bost (IL-12), joined the members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue following the release of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Acreage report in June. The letter asks NASS to clarify the June 2019 Acreage Report, which did not coincide with expected growing numbers. The report indicated higher than expected corn acres, which increased uncertainty into an already volatile market. Immediately after releasing the June Acreage report, NASS announced that 12 of the key corn producing states, including Illinois, would have to be resurveyed due to potential inaccuracies. In Illinois, many farmers were delayed in their planting, and the resulting market reaction increased anxiety amongst those that were unable to plant in time.
“This report had real financial consequences for Illinois farmers and farm communities who rely on accurate Acreage Reports,” the members wrote. “In Illinois, acres planted in corn account for nearly half of our total farmland. The livelihoods of corn farmers in our state and across the Midwest depend on accurate USDA crop data. Given the extraordinary challenges currently facing Illinois agricultural communities, it is vital that farmers receive the best information to make decisions impacting the future of their businesses.”
In addition to Bost, the following members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation joined the letter: U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Representatives Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Robin Kelly (IL-02), Lauren Underwood (IL-03), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Bradley S. Schneider (IL-10), Bill Foster (IL-11), Rodney Davis (IL-13), John Shimkus (IL-15), Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), and Darin LaHood (IL-18).
Full text of the letter can be found here and below.
July 18, 2019
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1301 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20024
Dear Secretary Perdue:
We are writing to request additional information regarding the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) June 28, 2019, Acreage Report, which introduced confusing and potentially contradictory information into a market that is already volatile. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, following the report, “new crop corn futures fell by 19 cents and represented a $2.6 billion reduction in the value of new-crop corn.”[i]
The June 2019 Acreage Report included a corn acreage estimate that was 3 percent higher than the June 2018 Acreage Report.[ii] In the 2019 report, however, surveyed farmers indicated that only 83 percent of intended corn acreage had been planted—significantly lower than the ten-year average.[iii]
Data published by USDA in the June 11, 2019, Office of the Chief Economist’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), meanwhile, did not appear to show the kind of corn planting progress reported in the June 2019 Acreage Report. The June WASDE reported a decline in this year’s projected corn acreage, reflecting “delayed planting progress observed during the month of May and into early June.”[iv]
Adding to the confusion, on the same day the June 2019 Acreage Report was published, NASS released a separate notice that “excessive rainfall had prevented planting at the time of the survey” on which the Report is based.[v] According the NASS notice, the weather conditions led to planting delays in Illinois and 12 other key corn-producing states, meaning that farmers in these states must be re-interviewed to obtain more accurate acreage estimates.[vi]
This report had real financial consequences for Illinois farmers and farm communities who rely on accurate Acreage Reports. We have heard firsthand from farmers in our communities who were concerned that the report erodes confidence between farmers and USDA, caused problems between farmers and brokers, potentially undermined sound risk management efforts, and took away opportunities for farmers to make it through another tough year. One farmer reported that he lost $500,000 due to the sudden decrease in corn values.
In Illinois, acres planted in corn account for nearly half of our total farmland.[vii] The livelihoods of corn farmers in our state and across the Midwest depend on accurate USDA crop data. Given the extraordinary challenges currently facing Illinois agricultural communities, it is vital that farmers receive the best information to make decisions impacting the future of their businesses.
Therefore, we request an explanation of why NASS did not provide adequate context to the June 2019 Acreage Report to avoid the immediate need for an extensive revision of the report. We also request an outline of measures that NASS will take to undo the current confusion and to ensure that future reports remain independently reliable and accurate.
On behalf of Illinois farmers, we thank you for your prompt attention to this important issue.