As usual in the May issue of Peanut Grower, this month includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Prospective Plantings report issued March 31 of each year. The yearly numbers are based on a survey of producers prior to planting.
Around the same time the report came out, I came across an article by Hunter Biram, University of Arkansas, and William Maples, Mississippi State University, on the reliability of the USDA NASS Prospective Plantings report. Interesting. I know USDA’s numbers are often questioned, but what did these researchers find?
Not to give it all away, the researchers generally find the acreage projections to be mostly accurate where the only crops grown are corn and soybeans. Then there’s the South, where numbers tend to go askew, but mostly to a small degree say the economists. It almost made me chuckle thinking of why the numbers are off in my home region. Here are my ideas:
Thought #1: We don’t like to tell them our business anyway. This may stem from the old “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help” mentality. In other words, the less the government knows about your business, the better. But, as farmers, you are used to reporting acreage, signing up for programs and sharing this type information. So, I dismissed this thought.
Thought #2: No one wants to commit this far ahead to acreage specifics. This thought stems from a frequent notion in the Florida Keys or any other island or beach town where you are “living on island time.” Wonderful are those opportunities when you do not have to wear a watch or commit to being somewhere at a certain time. However, I dismissed this thought because most crops have an optimum planting window.
Thought #3: Everything is trying to kill your crop before it’s even planted. OK, this is an exaggeration. It is usually the weather keeping you from planting your preferred crop mix. Fortunately, in the South, there are alternative crops that can be planted if the optimum planting window of the first crop is missed because the weather is not cooperating with planting. There are alternatives because crop rotation is a must. The number of things trying to kill your crop after it is planted is not an exaggeration. Diseases, insects, weeds, drought, hail, hurricanes, the list goes on and on. Therefore, you must have a varied crop mix to keep any one of them yielding as needed.
Was I close to what the researchers found with this final thought? You’ll have to turn to page 17 to find out.