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Members of Congress urge Vilsack to reverse decision to cancel some reports

Members of Congress have sent a letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack asking the USDA to reverse its decision to cancel and/or discontinue certain reports.

Last month, the USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service announced it was canceling the July Cattle report, discontinuing the Cotton Objective Yield Survey, and all county estimates for crops and livestock beginning in the 2024 production year.

Secretary Vilsack tells Brownfield the cut to USDA’s budget created funding challenges.  “The NASS budget, which is the mission area that for which we are talking about for these reports, their budget was actually cut,” he says. “So, first of all, I’d ask the members of Congress, gosh, guys, do you want the reports?  Then you should have funded the last budget, but you didn’t.”

He says the budget was finalized more than 5 months late, which also created issues.  “Why is that important,” he asked.  “Because it reduces the amount of time we have to be able to make the adjustments to deal with the cut. If you think about this, if you have a 5 percent cut, it’s not really a 5 percent cut because you’ve only got seven months left to absorb it. So it’s like almost like a 10 percent cut.”

The letter outlines specific concerns regarding the discontinuation of the July Cattle report, which provides insights into herd size, calf crop, and heifer retention.

Illinois Beef Association Executive Director Josh St. Peters says with the current contraction in the industry, the agencies involved may need to take a closer look at how funds are allocated to restore the July Cattle Inventory report.  “We do need to step back and look at where the priorities are here,” he says.  “Because those cattle reports and the access to that data is really important for our producers and the marketplace as a whole.”

Members of both the U.S. House and Senate have asked Secretary Vilsack to work with Congress and industry stakeholders to find alternative cost-cutting measures to restore the reports.

The letter was signed by more than 70 members of Congress and is supported by the National Grain and Feed Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Cotton Council, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Livestock Marketing Association, the Beef Alliance, and the Livestock Marketing and Dealers Association.

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