USDA funding

Beginning this week, there will be some changes in USDA market reports, etc. I have been receiving an automated weekly link to a summary report of DDGS prices and corn:DDGS ratios every Friday. This week’s link included notice that USDA has discontinued this specific report. I have seen stories about other reports being discontinued by either USDA or NASS (National Ag Statistics Service) due to funding limitations.

This points out once again the minority role agriculture plays in the US economy. We are blessed in the US with an abundant and safe food supply. Our consumers have options that most people in the world can’t even begin to dream about when it comes to food choices, including growing methods, processing methods and diversity of items. At the same time, we have a world leading obesity problem. This is leading many in Washington to question the role of the Department of Agriculture in the US economy. Many are suggesting that the US Government doesn’t need to spend money on food production details, including research and reporting when it is clear the American consumer already consumes ‘too much’.

Between now and the year 2050, most modelers of population growth are suggesting that we need to double the worlds production of food. The US has been a leader in production technology and low cost of production due in no small part to the investment by USDA in research and the many market reports that contribute to our relatively efficient market system.

I remain concerned by the decline in funding for USDA backed research and market reports. If the goal is for the US to continue to be the leader in food production at low cost to the consumer world wide, funding from the public sector must continue.

Now that the Iowa caucus is done, it appears to me that agriculture will be relegated to a minor (if any) role in the candidates debate. With a majority of the US population living with 1-2 hr drive of a coast line, it is easy for most consumers to ignore where their food is produced or the many forces that influence it’s price.

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