The Statistical Reporting Service's Crop Reports Could Be of More Use to Farmers

GGD-78-29: Published: Apr 13, 1978. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1978.

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The accuracy, reliability, and timeliness of the Department of Agriculture's Statistical Reporting Service (SRS) reports and their usefulness to farmers were evaluated. SRS is responsible for preparing national and state forecasts and estimates pertaining to current and near-future supplies of agricultural products. The purpose of publishing such data is to help farmers make production and marketing decisions.

Farmers were not using SRS reports because they were not aware of the reports' availability or because they believed that the reports were inaccurate, untimely, or irrelevant. This problem is the result of poor communications between SRS and the farmers. In addition, the SRS internal evaluation system does not ask for farmers' views on their information needs or on proposed SRS program modifications. The system lacks formal procedures which have limited its effectiveness. SRS statistical practices could be improved by eliminating some of the subjective judgments presently used in developing estimates and forecasts and by using weather information in arriving at forecasts and estimates. The Bureau of the Census and SRS are attempting to maintain two separate mailing lists of the same farm population; such duplication is costly to the government. Most of the obstacles to consolidation of the two functions stem from restrictions placed on Census information.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should: (1) conduct a national campaign aimed at identifying farmers' data needs and reactions to the Service program modification and making farmers aware of the information available to them, stressing the usefulness of the information; (2) ensure that farmers receive SRS information by improving distribution; (3) formalize procedures for the SRS internal evaluation system; and (4) direct the research division to experiment with models using variables to increase the accuracy of early season forecasts and reduce the amount of subjective judgment. The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Bureau of the Census to discontinue its farm operators mailing list and use the list developed by SRS. Congress should amend legislation to provide SRS with needed information.

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